Even The Ocean is a narrative based platformer with an interesting mix of visual novel-esque narrative exposition developed by Melos Han-Tani and Marina Kittaka and published by Analgesic Productions, the same team that gave us Anodyne, which in a sense you could look at as something as a predecessor. I guess you could even go so far as to call it a novel platformer since I cannot say I have played something like this before.
The story centres around Aliph, a newly hired Magic Macguffin Power Plant technician working to transfer natural light energy to White Force, a nearby city. After some basic explanations of energy types that allow the world to go round, we start the game alongside our senior technician, Cassidy, who sadly leaves us too early. Shortly afterward, our suit is destroyed, leaving Aliph vulnerable to energy interference (which plays a large role in this game) We slowly make our way to the nearest power plant, solve the puzzles within, return to town for some story loaded visual novel sections and are off to explore the town itself.
The story itself is rather slow starting but opens up a bit after the first hour or so. It’s quite linear with little opportunity if any for divergence. To be blunt, if you go somewhere early, you simply cannot enter so the game keeps you on the straight and narrow in that regard, but it’s sad you cannot explore the world more, as it’s visually quite pretty. I actually really love the world map as it reminds me of the golden era of SNES RPG overworlds and their mode 7 tilt, but with this looking much nicer. The game uses two major forms of storytelling with the visual novel sections, the side-scrolling chat to NPCs and centres around the energy crisis, the plants themselves and an array of side characters. The characters are diverse and representative, but too short-lived to build what feels like a meaningful bond which is a shame, as they come across fairly throw away and inconsequential whereas if re-used it would build their character development.
The game itself is something of a cycle of visiting power plants, repairing them, visiting cities, experiencing a story, exploring the city and repeat. The pacing itself isn’t great between long visual novel sections and long side-scrolling perspective text box saturated talking, much of which doesn’t feel super important, but you just have to sit through it unless the text box breaks and you have to manually get them moving again as the auto-scroll doesn’t seem to be fully functional. Still, if you skip the text, you will miss important and interesting lore so I wouldn’t advise doing so. It’s a pity overall as Even the Ocean has really nice pixel art and animated sprite work, but it’s the little things I feel that hold it back. There are great backgrounds and locations too so it’s a shame we don’t get to know more about them in the over-arching story as it feels like unless it’s a power plant it’s unimportant, though you do get to navigate monsters internally but even then areas again feel a bit repetitive although there are some nice standouts, like the dream area which was my personal favourite. That felt really interesting and different.
I should probably go into mechanics and will start with the energy types. The world comprises Light energy and Dark energy, but the types go by different names like X and Y energy or Green and Purple. As we play on, we are repeatedly tested on our comprehension of this power dynamic via power plants, which essentially act as trials in a sense. We encounter light and dark flowers that we are to either use or avoid. If our balance meter fills too far one way or the other we perish, but a lot of the traversal has you experimenting. For instance, if you fill your meter 3/4 to one way you have superior height in your jumps or in the other you can move faster horizontally. These nuances are almost required for some power plants, but I wouldn’t say the game is too difficult as a result, but rather the constantly changing variables can get confusing and even frustrating as it feels like it could have been implemented smoother, but it’s done well enough that anyone moderately skilled shouldn’t have too many issues here. I should also point out Aliph’s shield. This thing is quite useful on top of the energy balancing. You can ride it on water, use it to catch wind gusts, as a general-purpose shield (obviously), etc. I found it to be a really nice addition, so it’s a shame we don’t get more stuff like that added in later to mix things up.
I guess other gripes I would have is that there doesn’t feel like enough puzzle variance. It’s like if you’ve done one, you pretty much know how to go throughout the game with one or two things being added. I mean this is arguably a point in Even the Ocean’s favour if you like your games simple and straight forward. Personally, I like nuance and a bit more depth so it ended up feeling repetitive to me, unfortunately, but that’s more a personal preference sort of thing. The music is pretty decent, but doesn’t necessarily stand out either. It suits the areas, but doesn’t set any type of emotional atmosphere. The sound effects however are pretty great so they sort of balance it out so no negative or positive points there either. The game itself also isn’t optimised for 16:9 resolutions, which I thought was a shame, as it has been the standard for years but doesn’t take away much in the grand scheme of things. I will say though that this team added some nice accessibility options including story mode, the full game and even more in-depth options to help players with epilepsy and other issues avoid triggering them or aid in playing despite them, so big points there. More developers should do stuff like that frankly, so it’s always nice to see.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Even the Ocean Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 6/10
User Review( votes)
A fun and different game with an interesting story, but a handful of flaws. Certainly worth a playthrough.