There’s something awe-inspiring about life under the sea. From housing the biggest mammal on Earth to creatures we’d usually only see in science fiction, I’ve been fascinated with it for most of my life. Terrified of going anywhere near it thanks to a healthy dose of thalassophobia, but fascinated. Beyond Blue, brought to us in association with BBC Studios (who brought us documentary series Blue Plant II), OceanX media and some of science’s leading Ocean experts, aims to capture that feeling and inspire others to take it’s preservation and care more seriously. I think this aspect is a great tool to show people, especially young children, the beauty of what lies beneath. The actual game part of the package though is rather underwhelming, and might end up preventing the important messages from getting across.
We play as Mirai, a deep sea, free diving enthusiast aboard the Atoll, a sub capable of housing her underwater for weeks at a time. The main crux of her mission in the big, blue ocean is to track a pod of Sperm Whales and learn more about them, including how they raise a recently born baby whale. Each dive revolves around tracking them, or looking for clues as to how they use their environment to hunt and look after themselves, and is rather well documented. My two young girls were pretty entranced watching me play and swim up to these majestic creatures, even distracting them from their belated birthday toys they were currently playing with.
There are plenty of other sea creatures to come across too, with schools of fish, sharks, Orca’s and coral to discover. While it’s not a true simulation as such – any animals in the current area simply swim around slowly for you to scan – there’s enough variety and information on each that it would serve as a great starting point for anyone interested in learning more. Species get logged in an index, and there are even real-life short films that accompany the key points throughout the game, with some top experts in their fields talking about the subject matter. It’s a shame that these clips are somewhat low quality though, with low resolution artifacting and colour banding ruining some stunning footage. They are still very informative to watch however.
All this information and footage is all well and good, but unfortunately the game isn’t really all that fun to play. Each dive has us swimming from objective marker to objective marker, pressing a button, then swimming to yet more markers. We need to use buoys dotted around to find animals of interest, which simply revolves around moving the camera and hitting A when the orange indicator circle is full. Then off we swim to scan the creatures, occasionally having to zoom scan them, a laborious process of finding specific points on the animals, then scanning that. Again, the information this all brings in is interesting, but man if it isn’t dull doing it. Only a handful of the animals are relevant to the mission, so while we can scan every one we come across there didn’t seem to be any real benefit to scanning, say, more than one Hammerhead Shark or school of fish.
There’s also a half-baked attempt to work in some interpersonal stories between Mirai, Andre and Irina on the boat above the sea, and Mirai’s sister Ren. But the dialogue is stilted and uninteresting, some nuggets of backstory are awkwardly shoved in but never really expanded on, and generally it just feels like a little filler for the sake of filler. Between each dive is where most of this dialogue takes place, where we can also explore the sub itself but again, there’s nothing really all that interesting to look at outside of some little details, and some actually rather enjoyable music to listen to.
Really though, it’s all about the sea exploration, and even though the act of playing is repetitive and quite dull, there’s a good range of information in both scanning the various animals and the short documentary pieces that accompany the adventure. A little more interaction or life to sea creatures might have been nice, but if you fancy educating yourself and perhaps your kids on how important the oceans – and the life within them – are, this is a great resource.
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.