If the human mind and its mechanisms fascinate you, Freud’s Bones is a perfect title for you: from the idea of Fortuna “Axel Fox” Emperora young Italian girl who, after studying psychology and philosophy, launched into the enterprise of make a self-taught game.
A personal and mature work was born that brings a niche theme such as psychoanalysis to a wider audience through the gamification.
In Freud’s bones
In this brilliant indie you will take possession of the bone of the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud controlling its movements and influencing its actions like a voice inside its head that it can prod or comfort him depending on the choices we make. In fact, we will be able to approach the dear psychoanalyst in several ways, determining some important life choices and drastically changing the outcome of his career and his relationships, as well as of his own perception of himself.
Remaining historically accurate, the game was set right in Sigmund Freud’s studio in Vienna, in what appears to be a fairly faithful representation both of the street on which the neurologist actually lived and of the interiors, which have now become a museum that can be visited. You notice the knowledge and study put into the making of this video game that he wants to make tribute to one of the most controversial scholars of the human mind and its inner dilemmas.
Sigmund Freud in fact led a rather unruly life, between the relationship with his sister-in-law and cocaine which alleviated all his ailments, while the world accused him of carrying out immoral and baseless studies. In this brief prospectus of his existence we will be able to influence his choices between a slice of cake at the Eckman Café and a few cigars, but soon the man’s inner conflicts will lead him on the verge of an immense inner crisis.
Theory and practice
Psychoanalysis is the theory that Freud applied to patients who were as desperate as they were intrigued to try his innovative methods. We will meet some four during our gaming experience and it is precisely on the armchair that the most interesting part of the gameplay will take place: by examining a patient’s medical record we will be able to analyze letters and poems written by him to understand symbols and allusions – often of a sexual nature as you can imagine if you know a little about Freud’s philosophy.
After consulting and studying the encyclopedia filled with all the terms and medicines necessary to carry out the profession, the sessions can begin. The reasons for the visit, the drugs prescribed, the relationship with family members and all the information necessary to get an idea of the person we will be dealing with are indicated in the medical record of the patient on duty.
Dr. Freud’s notebook contains the secrets of the trade – such as the mandatory price of 50 shillings per session -, the types of patient, the symbols for the interpretation of dreams with their common meanings and the fundamental distinction between Es, the Superego and the ego: the theme of morality is central in the work, as well as in the theories of the protagonist himself, in fact he claimed that each person has three different parts in himself, the Ex i.e. the “dark, inaccessible part of our personality”guided by pleasures without distinction between good and evil, the superego who opposes the id by violently blocking impulses on the basis of what is imposed by society or the family and finally the ego which others is but one puppet in the hands of the first two, always in a precarious balance between one and the other side, between hedonism and bigotry.
Basically we are talking about the beginning of the 1900s, equally precarious years for the world that was experiencing the rise of Nazism, a stressful event for Freud himself of Jewish origins who suffered discrimination from gossipy intellectuals and bourgeois. In the game we can also discuss with these, trying to extort money from patrons to get some publications and increase our fame, all using from the gameplay point of view a method similar to that of psychoanalysis sessions, i.e. choosing the sentences that most suitable for the type of interlocutor we are facing (complete with a notebook where the weaknesses and obsessions of the different social classes are noted).
The mechanics reminded us a bit Ace Attorney where it is necessary to carefully read and understand the testimonies and evidence available to solve the case, just as in Freud’s Bones folders, compendiums and notebooks are analyzed to outline a complete clinical picture and arrive at an effective diagnosis.
The play gave us however realistically the impression of not understanding whether the choices made are purely right or wrong: of course, a patient who leaves angry paying only 10 shillings is not a good sign, but more generally there is no map that allows you to understand how many other endings would be available or what other paths could have been taken by making different choices. The only safe way seems to be to play again using a different approach or to reload the saves.
A dreamlike delirium
The artistic value of this title is fully shown when the real intertwines with the supernaturalcreating dreamlike visions or monstrous hallucinations, voice of the unconscious of the characters that throws all the darkness of their minds and their real desires on the player. They are not missing explicit images and references, violence, abuse, trauma, insecurities and all that can be found by digging deep into the mind of a human being. We advise you to do at least 2 complete runs because some symbols and references to characters and events will only become clear to you once you have completed the game for the first time.
The writing style can sound complicated and bombastic, especially to those less accustomed to the study of humanistic and philosophical subjects, but can equally be appreciated for the investigative gameplay, the minimal music and the beautiful drawings. On the other hand, the font used in the letters is not very inclusive, which must rightly resume the elegant nineteenth-century italics, but are particularly difficult to read especially if you play on Nintendo Switch Lite or in portable mode where the screen is smaller. But the price is also small from €12.99 on Nintendo eShop that amply justifies the purchase in case you are intrigued by the psyche and its mysteries.
As each individual has their own inner conflicts to deal with, the Nintendo Switch software should also be given care for some technical problems (by now it is known that I have a great ability to bug games, something that emerges especially in indie titles that are always a little more at risk of a less than perfect debugging process).
In Freud’s Bones we have mainly encountered them three: during the sessions of the first playtrhough it happened that, opening the pause menu to save, then Freud’s head did not open, preventing us from making the choice – we managed to unlock it by fiddling a bit; finished the game instead we started to replay some parts starting from previous saves to see what would change and there we sent the game a bit haywire, between invisible or illegible medical records due to the overlapping texts.
Freud’s Bones manages to both entertain and educate with choice-based gameplay and text analysis. The knowledge provided by the title is accurate and the veil of mystery and madness added to the tale makes it gripping and personal. The game is a very successful indie experiment, mature and intelligent, but it was too short for us and there were some bugs that we hope will soon be fixed.