It's hard to describe I Doesn't Exist. It's a text adventure, but so much more. It's a dissection of mental health, but I'm sure it can also be interpreted in many different ways too. It's certainly one of the most experimental games I've played in a while. If that all sounds like word salad, I don't blame you -- this game is one tough nut to crack.
It's not that I Doesn't Exist is particularly difficult. It's a pretty short text adventure, but it's packed with so many deep and even relatable messages that my experience with I Doesn't Exist might be very different from yours. Tackling topics like mental health, self-worth, and more, it's not a game for the faint of heart.
Spoiler Warning: Due to the text-based nature of this game, this review contains story and gameplay spoilers.
An Experimental Take on Gameplay in I Doesn't Exist
As I mentioned before, I Doesn't Exist is a text adventure game. As such, you'll be reading a lot, and responding to the events of the story with prompts like "walk right," or "grab bucket." It's pretty simple -- even archaic gameplay -- although I Doesn't Exist does a few things to change up the genre.
I Doesn't Exist uses a language learning program; in other words, artificial intelligence. This is a buzzword that scares a lot of people, and its notorious reputation is warranted. In the case of this game, it's not the type of AI that conjures up images and text in place of actual human work, so don't let it alarm you.
This program's intent is to, as the official Steam page says, "offer more meaningful interactions with the game." As you might have guessed, there's more to I Doesn't Exist than it appears. The language learning tool comes into play after the first section of the game, and that's where it all starts to get more interesting and, consequently, it's where I start to see great flaws.
The language learning program simply doesn't work as it's supposed to. At least, it doesn't feel like it does. I can't begin to imagine how complex it is to implement such a tool in the game, but it lead to so many frustrations. Conversing with the "main character" in I Doesn't Exist with prompts that should reasonably work, simply don't.
There are too many misinterpretations on the part of the AI, so phrases I'd input lead to actions I didn't intend, or nothing would happen at all. If the intent of the AI is to learn, it certainly doesn't feel like it did.
As I Doesn't Exist merits multiple playthroughs for its multiple endings, I would experiment with different phrases in order to achieve a certain outcome. It's tough to determine what the game wants me to say in order to achieve certain endings, so I ended up replaying it multiple times, doing what I thought was different inputs, and achieving the same result.
I started to approach the main character of I Doesn't Exist with more empathy -- they're this tortured manifestation of mental health struggles. Through this more kind approach, I was able to achieve a better ending. Even still, I was a bit confused as to why I got a different ending when the course of the narrative and gameplay was largely the same as other playthroughs.
I Doesn't Exist: A Deep, Personal Story
The story for I Doesn't Exist is heavy stuff. It's an insightful look into the struggles of someone with mental health. Being a prisoner in your own mind, not being good enough or feeling worthless, the effects of anxiety and panic -- it can be a lot.
It's something I'm acutely aware of as someone who suffers from OCD -- a fact which I am quite open about -- but I think it's relatable for people with many other disorders as well. On subsequent playthroughs, I started to see how accurate the portrayal of mental health was, even if it's more abstract in its storytelling.
This is likely to turn a lot of people off, and I understand. Not everyone wants to face their demons in such a way, but I almost felt as though I learned something about myself by playing I Doesn't Exist. Because of this, I highly suggest going for one of the better endings, if you're able to get past the not-so-great language learning tool.
I Doesn't Exist Spoilers
Delving more into spoiler territory, the bulk of I Doesn't Exist is great at subverting expectations. It starts out like a typical text adventure, but spirals into an almost horrific look into the mind of an individual. The colors, once vivid and serene, turn into a green-and-black hellscape. What was once 2D turns into 3D, making for a trippy experience.
I Doesn't Exist Review | Final Thoughts
There's not much more I can say without outright spoiling I Doesn't Exist, so it's best to go in knowing as little as possible. Just know that you're going to run into issues with the language learning tool. Figuring out how to use the AI effectively was where most of the difficulty came from, so I wasn't able to appreciate the story as much as I probably would have if it were more polished.
That said, I appreciate the experimental nature of I Doesn't Exist. Topics like mental health might be a bit too deep or uncomfortable for some people, but it's for that reason I appreciate the risks taken in telling the story. If you're wanting to have an uncomfortable but important conversation with your media and can get past the flaws of I Doesn't Exist, it might be a worth your while.
I Doesn't Exist was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the developer over the course of 4.5 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
Disclaimer: Our reviews editor, Sam Guglielmo, works at publisher Dread XP but did not edit or view this piece prior to publication.
- An Experimental Concept that Mostly Pays off
- An Interesting Look at Mental Health
- Subverts Expectations
- AI Language Learning Tool Leads to Frustrations
- A Bit of a Pain to Replay, Especially for a Different Ending