The Sailor’s Dream is my game of the year for mostly very personal reasons, which isn’t to say that it isn’t wonderful in its own right. It’s a moving story about the simultaneous sadness and exciting freedom of solitude, the yearning to escape and the irresistible pull of the unknown. How we all hope to find a place, or a person, to call home; how seemingly insignificant objects can hold important memories; how the past can either set us free or keep us prisoner; how time can both heal and widen emotional scars. Above all, it’s about love. That’s ultimately what it always comes back to. It’s about loss and it’s about regret, sure, but they’re by-products of that love.
It’s a Simogo game, so it goes without saying that it’s a handsome thing to look at, but the art here is secondary to the soundtrack, which even in its happiest moments has a wonderfully elegiac quality. Regular Simogo contributor Jonathan Eng’s songs are beautifully composed and sung in heartfelt fashion by Stephanie Hladowski. There’s something strangely cathartic about the way they’re presented: each day, you discover a bottle, and when you tap it a new song will automatically play, the lyrics emerging as it floats past the islands of this tiny archipelago. By uncorking it, you’re releasing a long-forgotten feeling, and by extension freeing the woman who literally bottled up her most intimate thoughts in musical form. You feel for her, and yet you also feel for the sad, weary old sailor whose on-the-hour radio broadcasts reveal a man broken up by regret, desperate to atone for his past mistakes.
For a variety of reasons, I was at a pretty low ebb when The Sailor’s Dream arrived. There may be a bittersweet taste to its narrative, but it felt like a ray of sunshine in my life, forcefully piercing the gloom. There’s something delightfully, defiantly unfashionable about the way it wears its heart on its sleeve, and I found a deep resonance in its emotional honesty. It’s a game that reminds you of the importance of holding on to the things that mean most to you in life. I hugged my wife and son a little harder and longer when they got home that day.