For the many fans of Point and Click, first-person adventures, Myst and Riven have been mainstay titles in their libraries. These games are fantastic at transporting you to a mysterious, strange world with complex problems to overcome, and beautiful worlds to explore. What these games don’t do with their serious take on the genre is allow for new gamers of this current generation to slip into the action with a bright and vivid colour palette and accessible early gaming puzzles to overcome. Call of the Sea by developers Out of the Blue, and published by Raw Fury takes all the best bits from these major titles, but presents them in a much more user friendly way, with a Zelda Wind Waker/Sea of Thieves style world to explore.
The game itself follows the story of the female protagonist Norah, she wants to find answers to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her husband Harry, who is known to her as her “old pal”. He undertook a journey to find a remedy to Norah’s family disease and leaves no rock unturned while trying to find a solution. Unfortunately, his adventure has taken a turn for the worse, and now it is you saving him, and not the other way around.
The premise of the game is simple. You must explore a mysterious, yet beautiful island that is located off the coast of Tahiti. This landmass that you must explore is unchartered, and the locals refuse to name it. However, you must overcome the obvious signs to stay away, and venture deep into its jungle environment. The game plays out in a first-person perspective where you must search for clues in the surrounding areas, and piece together the small bits of information so you can solve the many puzzles you encounter. The problems that must be overcome to progress the story are usually straightforward, with solutions and hints staring you in the face. But more complex moments are found when you attempt to unlock the secrets of the island. Many of these types of games require spatial awareness and a high degree of logical thinking. Therefore, they may be out of the reach of inexperienced gamers, however, the mixture of puzzling difficulties makes Call of the Sea much more accessible for a wider ranging audience.
While the simplicity of most of the puzzles, it may be dumbed down too much for veteran gamers. But I believe there is enough to keep everyone entertained. What was also fantastic about this game was the pace at which both the story progressed and how the plot unfolded. Clever use of photographs and letters between the pair helped to show both sides of the relationship. As the player, you become engrossed with how the plot unfolds, and the dynamic between the two. You forget that our female lead character is unwell, but small reminders sharply focus you on the dangers they both face. It’s brilliantly written and takes you on a journey of discovery and on an emotional roller-coaster.
Myst and Riven are renowned for being beautiful and atmospheric titles. Whenever I see a game in this genre, I hope that it retains some of these qualities. Fortunately, Call of the Sea does! Wandering around this stunning island you will discover a variety of biomes from; craggy rocks, lush forests, dense marshes and gorgeous beaches. The vivid colour palette gives the world a wondrous and alluring look, where every element is interesting and has a magical undertone. I loved every bit of this puzzling adventure, and the developers have created a glorious environment to lose yourself in.
If you want an example of a game that has near perfect audio, then look no further! The music, sound effects, and acting work in perfect harmony to deliver the story and it envelops you in the world that you are exploring. The music creates upbeat and fun moments, which are immediately juxtaposed with sombre and minor tones that create a serious and ominous atmosphere. The sound effects breathe life into this slow-paced intellectual title, which makes you smile as each different location has its own unique sounds. Norah is voiced by Cissy Jones from Firewatch and Walking Dead Season One. Her tone and delivery of her lines brings warmth and emotion to help build a report with the female protagonist. The audio is a treat, and sounds spectacular through your TV, but for the best experience I recommend playing exclusively with headphones.
Because of the genre of game, most of the action is played out as fast or as slow as you like, meaning that the complexity of the control set up is not an issue. Fortunately, Out of the Blue has kept things simple, so learning the basics is easy to achieve. On the whole, the controls work very well, but I’d still say that this would play better with a mouse and keyboard. At points you will edge towards the item you want to interact with, still finding that you cannot select it. These are the limitations that console gamers accept, and though it was a little annoying, it didn’t break the game, nor did it ruin the immersive nature of the title.
Each chapter you take on is set in a small enclosed area of the island where you are free to revisit, and replay each at your leisure. There are many hidden items, documents, and photos dotted around the landscape, so collecting these will be a challenge the first time that you play. This requirement to find everything to obtain the 100% completion status will not be of interest for everyone, but as each chapter can be selected freely, I believe that most gamers will return to try to find all the secrets that eluded them first time around. At the time of writing this review, Call of the Sea is free to play as part of the Xbox Gamepass subscription, or is available to purchase at around £17. Both options provide great value for money, and I believe you’ll need around 7 to 10 hours to complete this if you don’t use a guide.
If you are looking for an interesting title that allows you to play at your own pace, and lose yourself in the beautiful world it’s set in, then look no further than this game. A wonderful story with great voice work awaits anybody that wishes to take this on. You won’t be surprised when I recommend that you give this a go! Can you help Norah overcome the variety of puzzles that block her progress? Will you be able rescue her “old pal”, and in the process save herself? Take on this adventure and see for yourself.