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Mobile Text Sim Hey Turtle Offers a Lesson in Dealing with Mental Illness

The definition of what a “video game” is has been the subject of controversy for a long time.

There are thousands of different types of games out there, making it hard to discern exactly what a “game” is. Playing the recently-released mobile game Hey Turtle made me question that very thing.

From developer Sleeper Cell, Hey Turtle is around an hour long, over which time it’ll take you through a conversation between your character and their significant other, Dana. You’ll tap your way through texts covering a period of their relationship, with you able to make decisions on what to say to Dana. Eventually, you’ll be able to decide where you see the relationship going.

While it doesn’t have many of the tropes you’d expect from something called a “video game”, the powerful message that Hey Turtle provides makes it a worthwhile venture.

It takes place almost completely in a WhatsApp-style messaging app, which you and Dana use to communicate with each other. The outcome of the game can vary, depending how you choose to interact with Dana. In the beginning, you’ll speak a lot about your relationship, and you’re able to choose a more serious tone or a flirtatious one. All the while, Dana speaks of his budding art career as well as his growing love for you and where he’d like it go.

Through your time with Hey Turtle, you’ll see the relationship blossom: you’ll eventually move in with Dana and, after a few months, it becomes obvious that he might not be the person you fell in love with. When Dana begins to act differently, you’ll have to decide whether or not you’ll ignore it, hoping that he’ll move on from his strange mood, or whether you’ll try to speak with him about it, but risk pushing him away.

The dialogue between the couple feels realistic and a lot like conversations that I’m sure many of us have had before with our significant others. This realism definitely immerses the player into the lives of these two characters.

It becomes evident towards the end of the story that Hey Turtle is dealing with themes of mental illness. You’ll have to decide how to deal with a bad situation and whether or not you’re willing to forgive and forget.

Mental illness is an all too real issue, and Hey Turtle does an admirable job of describing how it may affect a couple, as well as offering to combat some of the possible symptoms. Anyone dealing with a mental illness themselves, or anyone who knows someone suffering from one, will find strands of Hey Turtle that feel all too familiar. It’s short, but it’s poignant; and for its asking price of $0.99/£0.99, it’s well worth your time.

Hey Turtle is available on Android and iOS.

Becca knew that she would be addicted to video games for the rest of her life when she saw the first pixelated zombie shambling across her TV screen while playing Resident Evil 3. She particularly enjoys being scared, laughing until she cries, or just plain crying while experiencing games. When she isn't playing games she loves spoiling her cat Usagi and eating any kind of sushi she can find.