Content warning: This game and, by extension, this review addresses themes of domestic violence and child abuse.
Spoiler warning: In order to fairly explain what makes Resette’s Prescription as good as it is, I’ve had to talk about some significant plot details. They’re not things I think would detract from the game if you know about them beforehand, and notable plot twists remain untouched, but consider yourself forewarned.
Every now and then, a game will come along that just takes your breath away—that warms your heart, breaks it, then pieces it back together again. Resette’s Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~ is one such game; wrapped within a simple, short point-and-click adventure game is a haunting and powerful tale of domestic abuse, trauma, judicial failures, and one child’s struggle to move on.
That’s right—as cute and light-hearted as Resette’s Prescription looks with its chibi characters and watercolour backgrounds, it explores some dark, harrowing subject matter. However, instead of the kind of gritty, grimdark approach that this medium so often uses for such themes, Resette’s Prescription uses its cutesy presentation to create contrast and add weight to ideas that are tackled in a careful and thought-provoking way.
The game follows Resette, a young girl with the power to enter people’s hearts and cure them of “sleeping sickness”. She’s essentially a magical psychologist, visiting people’s subconsciouses and helping recover memories stolen by villainous creatures called bugs. It’s a fantastical and rather neat analogy for psychoanalysis, as Resette essentially helps her clients work through debilitating trauma so they can get on with their lives.
Achille is one such person, whom Resette stumbles upon while trying to find her way out of a forest. As she chases down bugs and explores the books containing Achille’s repressed memories, Resette comes to know a boy surrounded by abuse. Raised to believe in a just and fair justice system, Achille holds the law above all else—he believes that criminals are criminals, and that the law is blind and just. However, that all begins to fall apart when his best friend, Elna, kills her abusive father in self defence.
Elna knows that she has no hope. She’s seen the way this town treats “criminals” who are on trial—not as people with unique circumstances, but as rap sheets. She knows that nobody would believe her claims; nobody would believe that an upstanding member of society like a judge would do something so awful as beat his child. She knows that, even if people did believe her, “that man” is a judge, and there’s no way that he’d be held to account for his crimes.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because situations like this are horrifyingly, depressingly common in real life. Resette’s Prescription came out in the midst of discussion around the light sentencing of someone who raped an unconscious woman, and the way the courts and media focused on everything the victim had done to “deserve it” and on what a good kid the attacker allegedly was, because he’s a white kid with athletic ability.
Any time anyone comes forward with allegations of any sort of abuse, they’re scrutinised to the endth degree, accused of lying, and questioned on what they did to “deserve it” and what they didn’t do to protect themselves. When it involves someone with judicial authority, conflicts of interest make things even more complicated. How can you rely on a justice system in this context?
That’s the question that Resette’s Prescription poses—starkly and unflinchingly, but with a degree of care as well. It’s horrifying and thought provoking, but without being graphic and exploitative, and even though it ultimately serves to further the story of Achille, there’s a lot of focus put on Elna and how she’s affected.
When Elna turns to Achille for help, he doesn’t know what to do. To him, the law is on the highest pedestal; he thinks that the only option is for Elna to come forward. He can’t conceive of this thing he holds in such high regard being flawed and broken, so when Elna seeks his aid in escaping, he’s unable to help.
As it turns out, Achille, too is a victim of abuse, as is his mother. They’re regularly “punished” by his father (also a judge), and so pervasive is this idea of blind justice that the only explanation he can reach is that he’s at fault—he’s being punished, so he must have done something to deserve it. Again, this is a very real situation for a lot of very real people. The internalisation of guilt is one of the things that makes abuse-related PTSD so insidious and harmful. And again, Resette’s Prescription is stark in its treatment of the matter while still approaching it with care.
Certainly, this is a confronting and harrowing game, but it’s also a beautiful and adorable one. The light, picture-book presentation serves to highlight the darker side of the game, but it also offers respite from it. Resette and her cat-like companion Gaede are an endless source of amusement with their bickering and general quirky shenanigans. The watercolour backgrounds are absolutely beautiful. Simple puzzles offer welcome distractions from the heavy narrative, giving you a chance to collect yourself.
Most important, it all ends on a delightful note. It’s not necessarily a happy ending, per se; it’s more bittersweet, but it’s adorable and serves as an excellent end to a haunting, difficult, and beautiful story. Be sure to watch the credits, too, for extra cuteness.
As I said at the start, it’s rare treat to play a game that’s so affecting. In the space of three hours I had my heart torn apart, then put back together piece by piece, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Resette’s Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~ is developed by Liz Arts and published by Sekai Project. It’s available now for PC.
A Steam code was supplied by Sekai Project for this review.