Developer: E-Line Media
Publisher: E-Line Media
Genre: Action, Adventure, Simulation
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 11/06/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Ever since catching wind of Beyond Blue on Twitter, I was immediately reminded of Endless Ocean for the Wii, which I spent hours on despite my fear of the big blue’s depths. I would never be able to set foot in a scuba diving suit in real life, so doing it through games is as close as I will get!
E-Line Media (creators of Never Alone) have teamed up with BBC Studios to bring a Blue Planet II inspired simulation game, but just how realistic is it? Let’s find out.
What’s Your Porpoise?
Taking on the role of a scientist and deep-sea explorer, Mirai, you are part of a research team using brand new technology to find out more about the creatures that call the ocean home. In particular, Mirai is enamoured with a sperm whale family, but orcas, bottlenose dolphins, whale sharks and more are waiting to be discovered.
The main gist of the game is having to locate creatures, keeping track of them to gain research, ensure their safety, or make a new discovery. But Mirai and her teammates also live stream their findings, so that the world can see the ocean through her eyes and ask questions. This was a great way to subtly educate you, as Mirai explains to her audience what is happening.
You are guided through each new control that is introduced, such as diving deeper or using a manta drone to get a closeup scan of an animal, so they are easy to grasp. Throughout the game, you are pretty much doing the same thing anyway, so it’s unlikely you’ll forget any controls. Unfortunately, this makes gameplay repetitive as each ‘dive’ or level consists of carrying out the same actions. Locate a whale via its sound, zoom scan it, collect specimens. Besides swimming, you don’t do much else.
I can see why some people may find it a little boring, but for me, its redeeming qualities lay in the characters and their narrative, as well as the visuals.
Don’t Be Shell-fish
With some superb voice acting, the characters are brought to life despite not being able to see their faces or actions (even Mirai, though she is seen through third person, isn’t shown expressing emotions). You can tell when Mirai is upset, as she goes from cheery and confident, to quiet and less jokey. We get little insights into their dynamics and some side story, such as Mirai’s relationship with her sister back home, who is looking after their nan suffering from dementia.
In these conversations via phone call with your sister or research team, there’s some choice-making as you choose how to reply to them. I’m not sure how much it affects the story, but for example, you can choose to ask your sister about school or your nan, or back either person in the research team. Nevertheless, it made you feel more involved and have a little say in Mirai’s personality.
There’s also a danger to the sperm whales within the main story, and because you spend so much time with them, it leaves you invested! A nice touch was also returning to the sub after every dive, and every time there would be different things lying around to investigate, learning more about Mirai.
A Whale of a Time
I was impressed by how clean Beyond Blue looked and how real it seemed! Having people who worked on Blue Planet II and the input of scientists, the animals’ movements were spot on, and I was completely immersed. The blue colour palette was extremely relaxing, with splashes of bright colours in the volcanic vents and coral. I had no performance issues at all, except for some white pixels in the bottom left corner of my screen when on the submarine. Hopefully, this will be altered swiftly!
Though there are lots of creatures to find, however, I would have liked to see a bit more of a variety to really make use of the fantastic visuals, as we mainly saw the whales. Some of the dives were also at night, and while atmospheric, an option to see them during the day would have been good to take in the surroundings.
Besides the whale song and bubbling of water, there was some subtle music in the background when diving which blended well and didn’t take away from the feeling of being in the vast ocean. However, on the sub, there was a unique playlist filled with indie/alternative music which was very calming. You could choose which song to play too, giving you some control.
One of my favourite parts about the game, which made it so unique was the Ocean Insights. These were videos from scientists and ocean experts which were earned throughout the game, so you could learn even more about the world you’d explored. This education element was done well, and will help players become more passionate about the ocean and trying to save it. Getting these videos as well as scanning everything to gain more information is an incentive to replay the game, paired with some relatively easy achievements.
My incentive, however, is just to indulge in the beauty of the game and be able to take it all in without a focus on story objectives. If you’re not a fan of chill games, this is not for you, as it is very repetitive and quite short too. Personally, I enjoyed the stress-free experience, and as an animal lover, I was in awe of the animals swimming alongside me. With intriguing characters and an educational spin, Beyond Blue stands out and will stick with me.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Beyond Blue for Xbox One from the following link: Microsoft Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.