Young Joel has been diagnosed with something no one ever wants to hear – cancer. Follow the story of the Green family as they struggle through the hardships of their child’s battle with this deadly disease.
That Dragon, Cancer is a story-driven point-and-click type game that plays a lot more like an interactive movie. You’ll view the story through a variety of perspectives, though mainly through that of Joel’s parents. The game is a heavy and emotional ride that will take you over four years of their lives as they struggle with the young boy’s deadly disease. You’ll see the high moments, the low moments, and everything in between.
One of the big themes in That Dragon, Cancer is religion. Even though I’m not very religious myself, I really felt that That Dragon, Cancer handled the subject extremely well. From my experience in games, it’s either done completely over the top or absolutely horrendously. While some people may find take offense at that Christianity themes present, don’t let it undermine the entire game for you.
While I stated that the game plays a lot more like a movie, it does have a handful of moments that will give you quite a bit of interactivity. These moments come in the form of fun little “mini” games that are used as alternate story-telling methods. The two that really stuck out to me were a racing game in which you go through the halls of the hospital in a wagon collecting the medicines that Joel needs, and a side-scrolling arcade game in which Joel goes to face a dragon. I felt both worked absolutely fantastically as storytelling methods, and the end of the arcade style one had me tearing up a bit.
As I also stated before, this game is an absolute emotional rollercoaster ride. You’ll see the high moments of Joel playing in a park or feeding ducks, and you’ll see the low moments of him just crying and crying from being in pain. You’ll see as the family struggles internally with everything that is happening. I absolutely love story-driven things like this, and That Dragon, Cancer absolutely fulfills that role.
Besides the subject matter, the other thing that drew me towards this game was the art style. These aren’t your typical character models you’ll see in other games. These models are an abstract style that I found to be quite unique. Additionally, the music and voices are completely on point, with the voices coming directly from the family (and others involved in this tale). All of this comes together to help build the atmosphere of the game, and will also help in making you feel even more emotional.
There were some things within That Dragon, Cancer that I questioned if that’s how they should be. During one scene, Joel’s father is trying to give him some juice to help calm him down. During this entire time, Joel isn’t visible at all, even though you can hear him. This lead to his father looking like he was just holding his arms oddly while you hear the crying of Joel. You are also supposed to look into his crib at different points of this scene, but it becomes difficult as you can’t actually see him.
One of my major, and only, criticisms of this game is the price point. $14.99 for a game you’ll only play through once and that only comes in a couple hours to play through is not something that says “good value” to me. Yes, the game looks gorgeous, but it is also a bit overpriced. I ended up having to wait for the game to finally go on sale (50% off), and that was the point at which I felt the price was worth the length. As I have stated in prior reviews, I am someone who cares about the length of a game compared to the price, and this simply doesn’t feel worth $14.99 for being something you’ll only play through once and isn’t exceptionally long.
With all of that said, do I recommend That Dragon, Cancer? I do – if you can find it on sale for a good price. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the art style, though you do need to note that there are strong religious themes throughout. I do applaud the Green family for sharing their story with the world, and as someone who is presently dealing with the struggle of a family member with cancer, I also thank them for sharing this story. So, as long as you can find the game on sale and are okay with the religious themes, then go get That Dragon, Cancer if you want a good, emotional story.
That Dragon, Cancer Review Score
That Dragon, Cancer is available now for purchase on Steam.