Editor’s Note and Sensitive Content Warning: The game discussed in this article deals with mental health issues in a flippant and joking manner. The game’s tone is meant to be light-hearted, but those sensitive to issues such as depression, alcoholism, eating disorders and the like should take that in mind before proceeding.
It’s extremely rare that I lead an article with a content warning and then proceed to talk about a game I enjoy quite a bit, but that’s the case with Dr. Meep (developed by Heckmouse and published by HyperBeard), a match-three puzzle game where you play the role of a telepathic therapist progressively helping cartoonish characters through various mental issues via a match-three puzzle interface with a twist.
The twist is that the various psychoses — from an extremely stressed out popsicle to an alcoholic cactus — all have the same base emotions that you have to match to get to the end, but also have extra pieces on the board with different effects that relate to the issues that sent them to the office of Dr. Meep to begin with.
Dr. Meep meets each patient five times each, and each time it’s clear that some progress is being made as you telepathically match three emotions to clear the board, with the ultimate goal of clearing a specific number of emotions without the playfield reaching the top of the screen. This is challenging because it’s not about sliding pieces around, but by tapping to destroy single pieces at a time and letting things drop from there.
On top of that, more pieces drop every two taps (and the aforementioned stressed-out popsicle, fittingly, has pieces that drop every single tap and one of its later levels revolves around tapping on clocks, symbolizing more time to lessen the stress. Tapping on the clocks clears a spot without dropping more pieces, or emotions, onto the playfield) and it can actually be quite a challenging game.
None of it is handled with grace or special care, and as noted in the content warning, it’s all rather flippant. But it’s also stylish and charming in a way that I appreciate. As someone who personally has struggled with various mental health issues, from a massive anxiety disorder to regular depression to Bipolar Disorder, there’s an aspect of this flippancy that appeals to me in a way that I’m sure won’t appeal to everyone … but there’s something to this.
Unsurprisingly, the only time I was truly bothered by something that was said in the game was when one of the patients, a dog named Ronk whose core mechanic is that matching emotions is simply a diversion while the bones that drop on the playfield are all that count toward his total matched to clear the level, asked me outright upon failure of his stage if I was “going to beat Ronk.” Maybe I’m jaded by the world today, but I’d rather think about depression and anxiety than animals being abused.
The developer tries to make it cartoony and give it character, and I’d say that most of it lands. The style is great, with a nice contrasting colors and a very simple interface. But it’s quite difficult and at times frustrating. With the general lack of depth in the gameplay beyond a few tricks that are cool to see the first time, I’m finding “sessions” to be rather slow-paced and frustrating as I near the endgame.
But something about it just clicks with me overall. I could see the things that don’t bother me absolutely bothering other people, or I could see those typically sensitive to those kind of issues totally embracing this game the way I have. I can’t recommend it fully as some masterpiece or anything, but it’s an enjoyable puzzle game that I’ll keep playing for awhile, flaws and all.
Dr. Meep is $2.99 on Google Play.