Every now and then a game comes along that really accurately portrays what genuine relationships are like. If they aren't cliche they're over-romanticised and unrealistic, but after playing Hey Turtle we can say for sure that Sleeper Cell has effectively portrayed the struggles of a very real relationship in this less-than-ideal world, one with various struggles, responsibilities, and pressures to contend with.
Hey Turtle tells the story of you - the player - and your relationship with Dana, which unfolds through two chapters of interactions. Sometimes you'll be responding to what Dana types, with various choices thrown in there which can change the mood, and other times you'll be seeing what happens outside of the text messaging app, which is where the majority of Hey Turtle takes place.
With the game lasting between 30 minutes and an hour (depending on how rushed you're being), we won't delve too much into the plot, but the relationship starts like many do, with a fairytale beginning as both are swept off their feet by love, before reality rudely interjects. The real test of any relationship is if you can withstand the bad times and keep going, rather than just the good times, and this shows this in a raw and very relatable way.
As mentioned before, the interactions never detour into cheesy territory, but portray a quiet love story that unfolds between two individuals who weren't even really looking for it, and it's the mundane that Sleeper Cell does so well. These two met in a normal setting, and their adjustment to normalcy away from the fairytale is exactly what starts to test them, in more ways than one.
Sleeper Cell also raises very valid questions of mental health, which we won't divulge for fear of spoilers. It's the sort of game where, because you're hearing about these issues from a character that's actually dealing with them, you get a first-hand perspective of what it's like to manage these conditions, and the difficulties that come with them as well. It's not just a clinical portrayal based on facts, but one that's very personal and made us think more carefully about the condition at hand, even opening up Google to do some well-needed research (it turns out we were more uninformed that we thought).
And of course you can change the relationship depending on your choices in dialogue and elsewhere, ultimately deciding the course of the game. It's not dramatic when it comes to branching, but there are two key outcomes that can happen, and it's about you deciding how much you can understand Dana's shortcomings and how much you want to persist in spite of them. It's touching, and after playing it through twice to experience both sides, we were surprised to find that both are deeply understandable, despite being worlds apart in their result.
Overall Hey Turtle won't take you too long to complete, but it'll stay with you after it's passed you by. The themes are really important to talk about, especially in this day and age, and it's an eye-opening insight into how relationships can be a lot harder than they first appear. Sure, there could be a touch more interactivity, but it's definitely worth a look if you're a fan of touching and powerful narratives.
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