Compared to the other two apps I’ve named, Forest and Finch, this one is much more of a game and also much much simpler in function. I believe it was designed for children and young people, but I enjoy simple games, so I really liked it too.
The entire “self-care” function of this game is to get you to do…something. That’s it! It’s based on the idea that when you’re in a depression, you do start to feel somewhat better when you do anything at all (cleaning up your space; doing hygiene tasks; doing something creatively fulfilling; talking to someone about how you feel…literally anything at all). However, you’re also less likely to have the motivation to do anything when you’re in a depressed place like that.
So the game aims to give you just a little tiny extra nudge of external motivation with encouraging words and cute gameplay. Every day you’re encouraged to do just one thing — reflecting on which thing it is you want to do (or choosing from a list of prompts), then taking the time to do it. You get in-game rewards for having completed it, which are little pets who go on adventures (and are really cute). And you’re prompted to reflect very simply on if that task made you feel a lot better, a little better, the same, or worse. Then the game can remind you on subsequent days of what things you’ve done in the past that made you feel better.
The game only allows you to do one of these types of adventures per day, but any other time per day you can send the pets on their little adventures, which is like a resource allocation minigame.
I really liked the minigame part of it because I have a habit of using very simple, easy to pick up and put down, games in my phone to regulate when I’m really struggling throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll play a round or two of Spider Solitaire, or I’ll unlock some animals in Disco Zoo. Things that I can do for like 30-60 seconds to bring my brain out of a way over the top emotional state into at least enough space to remember that everything isn’t terrible. And Paradise Island had that built in alongside the other encouraging words and mental health theming. I really appreciated that.
Guardians was the developers’ original app. They used it in a study of mental health outcomes, made some changes, and made Paradise Island. So the more complete, polished version is Paradise Island, and Guardians is more rough around the edges in some ways — but Guardians is also longer; it has 3 full levels where Paradise Island only has one. Paradise Island has an extra minigame that Guardians doesn’t have, in addition to the resource allocation game, where you can fling the animals with a slingshot to connect fruit. I did like having 2 mini games to go back and forth between.
I started with Guardians and once I had beaten the whole thing, played Paradise Island. The apps could truly go either way.
This is not as robust or as thorough by any means as the other apps I’ve talked about. But it is cute and friendly and gentle and uplifting, and it got me to try out a handful of different exercises to see whether doing anything helped me feel better, so I count that as an overall positive too!