Even the Ocean Review

Everyone loves a tale about an underdog. The individual is berated for not being good enough, even when they are trying their best. Then comes the big reveal, when everything comes together and just clicks. Suddenly our underdog is a fan favourite, and everyone wants a piece of them. This is how our protagonist is viewed in Even the Ocean. Aliph is just a junior technician, a no-one in the company. She makes mistakes, and she’s not allowed to forget it. That is until the day of the dreadful accident, the day where she is forced to step up to the plate and make her actions count. Suddenly she goes from nobody to world beater overnight, and everyone looks to her to solve the problems.

Even the Ocean is a sad and sombre tale of loss, apocalyptic events, friendships and monsters. Developed by Analgesic Productions and published by Ratalaika Games, this is an old school adventure title that will tug at your heartstrings. An adventure platform game that revolves around Aliph the power plant technician, Whiteforge the capital city, and beastlike monsters known by the government as Geome’s. The game centres its attentions on the world’s power plants, and the importance of keeping these running.

It all begins with you approaching a storyteller, this mystical being is waiting to tell you the tale of Even the Ocean. As you are playing the title, you’ll want to hear it. As the story is read out you take control of the situation and see all the events without being interrupted. It comprises 5 Acts that enable you to explore the surrounding lands, and the mysteries it holds.

The action opens with Aliph and her superior Cassidy, they are repairing the local power plant. Both characters are wearing protective suits of armour to shield them from the dark and light energy (more on that later). Cassidy is hard on her partner, her words are sharp and short, but she only wants the best for her. This routine work is going well until disaster strikes. Cassidy is in dire straights. Caught on dark energy, her life is all but over, she falls to her death, and you follow. Your suit is destroyed, but the plant still needs repairing. Armed with only your chest plate as a makeshift shield, you repair the plant, and return a hero. This is just the beginning, and the point at which she in no longer considered an underdog.

You now become the Mayor of Whiteforge’s poster girl. Mayor Biggs uses you freely to resolve all issues. You are provided with many maps to show you the location of your next mission, and you must discuss any findings with the scientific advisors. As the story evolves, you discover that you are all doomed, the harbingers of this deadly prophecy are the Geome’s. These hulking beasts of; land, air and sea wish to destroy your way of life. You are no longer a lowly technician; you are the heroine that is destined to save humanity.

Though the story runs in a linear manner, you are free to roam the “Overworld” (this is the beautiful view of the continent you call home), and you can explore the city of Whiteforge. You move around town by selecting locations from a drop down list. If you enter a place that you are not supposed to, you are conveniently put back on track, so losing your way is highly unlikely. The story starts off at a slow pace, but is delivered at a comfortable speed once you complete Act 1. It is quite a dark and emotive piece that explores the feelings of death and loss, and how this impacts those that are left behind.

The main game premise involves the balancing of light and dark energy (green vertical and purple horizontal). A bar is seen on screen that shows if you have consumed too much of one power. If you become unbalanced and consumed completely by either element, then it’s game over, and you must return to the last checkpoint. This energy is not just deadly, it is also the main tool used to solve problems, and is used to overcome obstacles. If you have a high dose of light energy, you can jump higher. If it’s dark energy, you can run much faster. Switches absorb power, and nearly every enemy will aim to unbalance you. It’s a constant juggling act, and you must use plants and the environment to keep yourself level, and stay alive.

I really enjoyed this gameplay mechanic, it was unusual, and I can’t remember another game that has integrated a similar style. As you tackle each mission, new elements are added to each stage. Tackle moving platforms, aggressive enemies, and progressively more difficult puzzles. The shield you insist on using instead of a highly protective suit of armour, not only protects you, but it helps you to move around. It is used to float across gaps, leap beams of light, and defend you from deadly foes. Each area is constantly trying to attack you, and you must keep on your toes to stay alive.

If you are a gamer of a certain age, you will fondly remember tabletop pixel adventure RPG’s. Bright colours, vivid tones, and sprawling lands that seem to go on forever. The excitement as a settlement or dungeon suddenly appears from the mist. I loved this style of game as a child, and that feeling has never dissipated as I’ve grown into an adult gamer. Even the Ocean has taken all the best bits of retro gaming and worked it into its visual presentation. From the first moment that I stepped into the “Overworld” I had that gooey feeling of nostalgia. It reminded me of Phantasy Star crossed with Shining Force. The sprites are well designed and detailed enough to make them easily identifiable. Each power plant has a unique look, as did the varying lands that you visited. The cutscenes look like pictures from a page of a book and matched the game style perfectly. If you are a sucker for Mega Drive or SNES RPG’s, then you will adore this.

What was equally good was the use of audio. This matched the retro style and helped set the scene. There was a nice balance of upbeat and sombre music. The tale’s emotion was conveyed well, within both its art and sound. Because of the developers sticking with an old school approach, you won’t experience any new ground breaking audio. But this didn’t bother me. What was used created a perfectly serviceable soundtrack that supported the gameplay.

I found the controls a little fiddly at times. With a big portion of this being a platform title, there is a lot of jumping from surface-to-surface using your shield to assist you. I found that I was moving the shield in the wrong direction, falling off of platforms, and generally being rubbish at the game. No doubt this is a “me” problem, so I don’t think you will struggle with this as much as I did. Other than my issues with using the controller, the layout is easy to understand, and makes the game fun to play.

As it’s a linear title, with very limited opportunity to diverge off the preordained path, this will considerably limit the replay value. All the achievements are unlocked by completing the game, and there is no grinding or additional playthrough’s required. Once you finish this, there is unfortunately little reason to return. There is no NG+ mode, but you are afforded the chance to choose how you wish to start a new game; full game, story only, gauntlet, and warp. Each allows you to experience different areas of the title, and may attract some players who wish to try certain parts again.

Is there a place in the current market for an indie retro adventure platform title? When it’s as good as this one, absolutely! For older gamers, this will bring back fond memories. For our younger audience, you’ll be able to experience a simplified game that focuses on strong game mechanics, and straightforward storytelling. Though there was a lot of toing and froing, and it started very slowly, I loved how it developed. Analgesic Productions have covered some challenging subjects, which have been presented in a caring and thought provoking way. I can’t help but recommend that you play this. With around 8 to 10 hours of gameplay, numerous challenging “dungeons” and many friendships to make on your journey, this is a game you don’t want to miss. It’s time to balance light and dark and become the heroine you were destined to be.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Even the Ocean Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
    8/10
  • Graphics - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sound - 8/10
    8/10
  • Replay Value - 4/10
    4/10
User Review
0 (0 votes)
Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)
Overall
7/10

Summary

Life can be strange, one day you’re a lowly technician, and the next you’re saving the world. Become the heroine and save humanity in this retro adventure platform title.

Pros

  • Fantastic retro graphics and sound.
  • Brilliant story.
  • Difficult subjects covered well.
  • Easy achievements.
  • A must buy.

Cons

  • The controls were fiddly for me.