Even The Ocean is a charming adventure title that brings some interesting mechanics in to the fray, but at the same time manages to somewhat under used them to their full extent.
The conceit is that the world is balanced by two forces, here represented by purple and green flower buds. Too much of either will cause damage and chaos to those affected, so each must be managed and maintained in order to keep the world – and its people – safe. The capital of Whiteforge relies on external power plants for this, and we play engineer Aliph who is thrown in at the deep end when these plants mysteriously go offline. What follows is a touching, though a little over written, tale of loss, heroism and love.
The bulk of the game then sees Aliph travelling to each power plant and navigating the platforming within, aiming for the control room to power everything back up. We can tackle each of these in any order we like, though there’s definitely a difficulty hierarchy. The world map used to get to these locations reminds me of old school RPG games, with Aliph appearing as a small sprite as she runs across the zoomed out overworld. There are hidden things to find along the way, though some will require us to come back at a later time. Personally I could have done without this aspect; while it’s not a massive map, the time spent running to a plant, and then returning after, felt a little like padding and although there are things to find this amounts to stopping in place and holding A to see if something is there or not. It’s not engaging enough and I found that I zoned out each time I entered the field until I reached my destination.
The plants themselves fare better. The platforming is simple, but the added mix of the energy alignment can make for some fun areas. Aliph has a bar at the bottom of the screen which shows her current alignment. Picking up green flowers adds to the bar which in turn allows her to jump higher, while purple increases her running speed – with the opposite effect also true, so she may move faster, but will also jump lower and visa versa. Let the bar fill too much either way and it’s game over, and this is where the challenge can come in.
A lot of the areas will be better suited to a stronger alignment one way or the other but will also put plenty of flowers en route, acting as extra obstacles to avoid. It is a smart way of giving us a helping hand while also turning the very things there to help against us if we’re not careful. Each plant is split up into around five rooms, each with several sections to them, though they’re not overly long – perhaps 20 or so minutes to clear one plant. While there were a couple of tricky sections, there were far more that I breezed through, and some that felt like a bit of a waste of space. Large, open rooms that held no platforming at all, or a corridor that stretched for too long considering it only held a couple of jumps.
It’s the final area that is clearly were the focus went, and these offer a little more engagement, though again not all that much challenge. Aliph needs to get either a horizontal or vertical bar from one side of a room to another; on this bar is a ball that slides back and forth along the length automatically. This can’t touch either the flowers or the zones of energy along the way, and must be placed in the receptacle at the end. Some of the runs put up a good fight, but far too many were almost pointlessly easy. Complete all of these and one final task needs seeing to to finish the plant. What is essentially a laser-and-mirror puzzle (that are, once more, far too easy) needs clearing to power things back up before Aliph can head back to Whiteforge for the day. Later on promises to add some extra elements to the gameplay, Aliph needing to not only fix the plants but redirect their power; however, this amounts to doing the exact same things again, the extra work done via storytelling rather than gameplay.
It’s here that Aliph spends a lot of her time, with a good amount of NPC’s to interact with each day, from a new visitor to town to the partner of a fallen co-worker. Analgesic Productions clearly put a lot of work in trying to flesh out the story and world, and if it grips you there’s plenty to read and find, but it really didn’t hit the spot for me. Certain characters go on for far too long, with over-written dialogue explaining what could have said in half of the time. Outside of one or two characters too I found very little interest in the fate of the world, and even the dramatic realisation of what was causing the plants to fail fell flat. Even The Ocean does have its more touching moments, such as the reveal of the where the name comes from, but I found myself becoming bored pretty quickly.
Even The Ocean has some good ideas within, from the polarising energy mechanic to the OK platforming. But it all feels like it’s trying too hard to wrangle a heavy tale out and as such end up bogged down under characters that waffle on for too long, and boring interludes between levels that add very little to the experience.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.