Multilinear narrative adventure about dealing with a psychotic disorder coming next spring to PC and mobile devices
Sitting in a nice hot bath seems like the perfect way to unwind and soak in some peace and quiet, but maybe not so much if being alone in silence means opening the door to the myriad thoughts and feelings brought on by a psychological disorder. The latter, of course, makes for much more interesting gaming potential, as we can start to see for ourselves in the demo for natsha’s upcoming Psychotic Bathtub – The Story of an Escalating Mind. And Ducks.
The game stars a young woman named Ophelia, who suffers from a “slightly odd, highly disturbing, and entirely unique psychotic disorder” and must navigate its many challenges while taking her bath. Within this confined space, you can observe and interact with the different objects in reach, including a rubber duck who claims to be her dead father. The results of your actions will be experienced from Ophelia’s own perspective, so expect the unexpected and make the choices needed to guide the young protagonist through her ordeal. Player decisions are crucial, as everything you do has escalating consequences, some of them potentially severe. You can “argue with your rubber duck, drink wine, [and] add more bathwater,” but act impulsively and “you drown your duck, the wine turns into poison, the bathroom is flooded,” and perhaps even worse. It’s entirely up to you to “find a way out of the really scary parts of your mind” if you can.
Played entirely within the same stylishly hand-painted room, Psychotic Bathtub is a multilinear point-and-click narrative adventure that’s less about solving traditional puzzles and more about “making decisions with meaningful consequences.” There are many potential story branches and more than one ending, giving the experience high replay value intended to “shed light upon mental health issues and the spiraling pitfalls that certain decisions or habits can lead to.” In tackling serious themes like “intrusive thoughts, escapism, self-destruction and guilt,” this is “not a serious game” in the sense that it’s delivered with a respectful but darkly absurdist sense of humour. The goal of the developers, who have seen first-hand the destructiveness of actual psychotic disorders, is to help destigmatize mental illness by making Ophelia’s fictional issues more accessible, striking a balance between “seriousness, tragedy and comedy.”
Psychotic Bathtub was originally conceived as a Bachelor’s project at the Zurich University of the Arts by Natasha Sebben, who has since received a grant from Pro Helvetia to expand it into a full-fledged game with a projected 3-4 hours of play time. Additional financial support will be needed to complete it, but a prototype demo is available now from the official website, offering 20-30 minutes of gameplay leading to four different endings. If all goes well, we should see the finished version released on PC and mobile device by the second quarter of 2024, and the developers are promising that 50% of all profits will be donated to mental health research.