I feel that, as individuals, we often tend to get caught up in the stresses and anxieties of our daily lives. Whether we’ve lost a family member, gotten a hard-earned raise at work, or sank deep into the depths of depression, there’s an alluring feeling that nothing matters when we do anything with our lives, good or bad. Things in life just seem to flow from one event to the next, the current stopped only by an underwater boulder that catches us by our swimsuit and rips apart the fabric upon which we’re swimming.
Bottle: Pilgrim is a video game with occasional, yet striking dialogue sequences, a long journey across a rain forest with flashbacks to a romanticist town square, a land of cascading white snow, and the story of a man’s twice tragic loss.
Now, in terms of actual gameplay, there is no action or goal beyond listening to the main character monologue his life. You pick up objects that mean something for the scene they’re attached to; sticks, umbrellas, and various other items located in abandoned shack houses, with old-style radios that I can only assume were placed there to further the plot and not placed by the main character.
The tragedy itself is two-fold; the narrator loses his wife to cancer ten years before the pilgrimage, and a few years after that he loses his daughter who drowns at the beach. While he blames himself and his drunkenness for losing his daughter, I feel that there is self-deception there. At the time he was with a group of friends while his daughter and possibly other kids were swimming. How did nobody notice her drifting further into the ocean?
Becoming an alcoholic isn’t the primary disease the narrator develops. Instead, I feel the real illness is in his inability to save himself. Throughout the narrative, we find out that he is a teacher, and he constantly struggles to take care of Emily. While he runs into an issue at work, a relapse in self-awareness and judgement, he ends up becoming more self-aware of his actions and ultimately stops drinking completely after Emily’s death. But again, the drinking is more the coping mechanism of a broken man than it is the actual problem itself.
Because he loses his wife so early in the game, there’s a sense that him spiraling out of control and ultimately taking it out on his daughter will be what kills him. In fact, I figured our narrator would turn out to be a ghost.
Not the case.
Losing his daughter was the real tragedy. This was the culmination of his drinking, his growing neglect, and ultimately his failure as a single parent to take care of her at all times. In a way, he became a ghost of his former self, reminiscing only about what he did with his daughter and not what he could do afterwards other than rejecting the bottle.
As far as recommending the game goes, I would recommend it if you’re going through a tough time personally, or if you’re looking for an hour-long journey to hear while viewing the rain, the mountains in the distance of the rain forest, and ultimately, the beach upon which we throw our S.O.S. bottles out to the world.