Review: SHUT IN

A Psychological Horror-Comedy about Getting out of bed, and going outside.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Recently I wrote a list of “A few games that also try to keep you indoors”, and a follow-up in “A few more games that also try to keep you indoors”. The core premise was essentially a series of games that tried their best to prevent your escape to the world at large, something I felt was a boon for a game given the current global situation of lockdowns and curfews.

In the first of those posts I did say that, yes, expansive games with freedom and exploration would be better suited to help players escape from their current existences, however, freedom begets freedom and this would only make us long for release from our corona-cages even more so.

But what about a game that deals with the feelings of you not wanting to step outside?

SHUT IN is a game created by Cael O’Sullivan, it’s objective is simple; get up & go outside. A task so simple sounding you’d hardly expect it to require any effort at all, except it does take effort, it takes a lot of effort. Everything does when you feel depressed.

I don’t want to make a game about what you should be doing [during lockdown] instead of being depressed. I want to try and capture how it actually feels when you’re in it, and show how hard simple things can become. But also make it a fun and funny experience. It’s a tough balance to try and perfect.”

– Cael O’Sullivan, creator of SHUT IN

Be it figuring out how to wash when your shower is busy spewing out hordes of bugs or how you’re supposed to exit through a door that appears to be drawn on, SHUT IN takes pleasure in turning the hum-drum every-day tasks most of us are so effortlessly able to accomplish into a never-ending gauntlet of hurdles in your way. Getting outside in this game isn’t just an allegory for depression or agoraphobia, it’s the mental health version of “It’s a Small World” taking you on a guided tour inside your brain as it vomits reasons not to bother at you, be it during your last breakup, death in the family, or existential crisis. And then it bloody kills you by dropping a couch on your head.

“A lot of the advice around depression can be infuriatingly cheery. It’s all ‘Get some exercise! Eat healthy! Be positive!’ which can just be really frustrating if you’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Or the afternoon. The great thing about horror is you can properly indulge and explore those negative emotions.”

– Cael O’Sullivan, creator of SHUT IN

There are cosmic horrors, undead horrors, gothic horrors and slasher horrors, but what SHUT IN delivers is the mundane horror, the inevitable failure to accomplish even the banalest of tasks. Lauded by an omnipresent narrator that mocks and derides your every effort, often resulting in some bleak and often comedic death. The universe is laughing at you, stepping on your every unfurled shoelace and watching you tumble arse-over-tit with a smile on its face.

It all sounds rather grim, and something far too serious, but there’s something darkly funny about it all, if you are or ever have been stuck in an extended spell of depression you’ll find yourself amused by the developer’s ability to portray all too close-to-home struggles as Goliath tasks to overcome, almost excitedly pointing at the screen in your own Captain America “I get that reference” moment.

SHUT IN’s playtime is around an hour a session, the game does however feature secret endings, slight variations on repeat play and a personality system that analyses the way you play and delivers you a fitting grade on completion. The game will release on 30th October and set you back a mere $4.99/£3.99/€3.99 depending on region, if you’re a fan of smaller indie projects and are looking for an excuse to burn through those extra pennies you have from not having to buy half the neighbourhood Halloween treats this year, why not head over to Steam and add this to your wishlist now?