It’s very rare for a game to evoke a sensation of serenity, especially a mobile one. That exudes a composed tranquillity with a uniquely gentle design, almost meditative in its execution, that is both equitable and expansive. What’s even more remarkable is just how compelling it is to portray an emaciated girl, clothed in ragged vestiges, evidently frayed and tarnished by the ambient exposure of the elements, skirting across a desolate ocean bereft of civilisation and even land with only a fishing rod to occupy the time and a small lantern to illuminate the way. “A Girl Adrift” is the gaming equivalent of yoga. A relaxing conciliate that nurtures the subdued thoughts often suppressed by the incessant conflicts of life that distort our minds. A Girl Adrift doesn’t simply alleviate stress, it nullifies it, culling any aggrieved influences that has driven you to the distraction of a mobile convenience. It doesn’t send constant aggrieved messages or passive intonations enquiring into where you’ve been for the past 10 minutes, like some needy teenager wondering why dinner isn’t ready yet. Nor do you have to worry about a castle being invaded while you’re away and having to replenish pillaged resources. It’s charm is in its docile simplicity.
You assume the role of an unidentified girl who drifts across a now submerged Earth. Visiting the enveloped capitals and there once distinguished sites, now just disfigured remnants piercing the water’s surface (my favourite being New Zealand where there is nothing but a patch of land and a sheep). There’s no direct conflict, no looming enmity, just a girl adrift on a raft, fishing. There are objectives to fulfill and specific locations you have to visit, but it’s never an immediate priority. Along the way you’ll encounter mini games such as a roulette wheel and an oceanic version of whack a mole that rewards you with orbs, a widely accepted currency that can be used to purchase items from merchants scattered throughout this hydrated world. These self anointed barters stock various accessories that enable particular augmentation such as increased fish spawns, additional power and speed. There are also boosters that help you navigate the continent more effectively and rewards you for regular visits. And I can assure you that you will engage a considerable proportion of your extraneous time without even realising.
There’s a mesmeric levelling system here, not because it does anything new, but because of how easy it is to do. You’ll level is determined by the experience you gain through routine fishing expeditions. The more fish you successfully catch, the more you increase your level which augments the strength of your auxiliaries (cannon, harpoon etc) as well as your own ability to reel in a fish. Because fish are so easily bated you’ll soon find that your level expands within minutes. Increasing your rank however requires you to defeat far more formidable aquatic beasts or “bosses”. It’s imperative that you maintain a high level when engaging these fiendish flounders as not only will they present a far greater challenge than the ubiquitous Cods and Mackerel, but once defeated the strength of all fish are significantly inflated. You can adjust the power of these batter dodgers by casting for a shorter period, basically holding the cast off button for less time, meaning the flounders you seize will be less resistant, allowing for less sustained button presses and potentially reducing the already great chance of provoking arthritis in later life. Its essence as a compelling mobile game however is in its pacifying temperament and tranquil isolation.
Really its more akin to meditation, like a warm bath on a cold November evening. There’s something so profoundly soothing about watching this unassuming girl coasting across a vast composite of oceans in her dilapidated raft, as you monitor your inventory with idle glances to ensure that your profitable wares aren’t overstocked, drifting from harbour to harbour without a care in the world. Complacency and indolence are some its most alluring traits that forgo the expeditious monotony of modern gaming that demands aggressive, fast paced incentives to maintain player participation. Those that prefer more administrative functionality will derive little enjoyment here. There’s so much to see and do with little demand to fulfill these duties with any immediate conviction! “A Girl Adrift” is a therapeutic Rpg, that sees fit not to coerce you on some arbitrary quest to save the world, but rather embrace it. It’s really a game of side quests. Imagine a traditional quest based Rpg, just without a mandatory world ending event. Or if you escaped incarceration in Skyrim and were told “Go ahead, you’re free now”. What you have is a gentle, simple and captivating game with gorgeous visuals that only elevate the placating modesty of drifting around a water world with just a fishing rod for company. I’m sure Kevin Costner would approve.