Beyond Blue is a deep-diving simulator, where you’ll encounter a host of sea creatures and aquatic lifeforms to be researched and interacted with, whilst dealing with some real-world relationships issues and strife that the characters face.
If you’re wondering, there’s no need to stress out about health bars and oxygen levels; air is constant and any attempt to run into a predator, like a shark for instance, will just result in a weird, physics glitch – you can’t be harmed. Beyond Blue’s presentation is of a relaxed, narrative-based exploration, traversing expansive oceans and the mysteries that they house below.
The core gameplay loop essentially involves receiving assignments from your Research team, then examining a specific area, environment or marine animal – pretty straightforward. You’ll mostly be scanning things with your hi-tech gadgets and collecting bio-samples for analysis. It does feel a little thin and repetitive for conventional gameplay standards, but it’s flow of movement and edutainment-esque vibe combine well, to keep it’s audience hooked on knowing what’s around the corner. This game isn’t anything like Tripwire Interactive’s, Maneater, where you’d need to actively fight off enemies and threats. It’s more a slow and methodical glide through the ocean, learning about it’s real-world inhabitants and soaking in the tranquil atmosphere.
The story follows a trio of researchers and scientists, portrayed through the lens of lead character and diver, Mirai. Being voiced by YouTube megastar, Anna Akana, you can definitely expect some of her comedic mannerisms to shine through here. Mirai and colleagues live-stream her diving sessions and follow a group of sperm whales throughout the adventure. During her down-time on the group’s submarine, Mirai will take phone calls from family and friends. Basically the game’s method of introducing other characters to the plot, but there’s very little substance in the candid conversations to be had here. Discussions of a struggling sisterly relationship, a grandmother that’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or an illegal sea mining and pollution operation, all fall a little flat as they’re no way near as fleshed out as they could be. Because of this, the main themes don’t exactly resonate to the extent E-Line Media might’ve expected. It’s a bit of a shame, as I felt that extra efforts could’ve been attributed. The voice cast portrays their characters particularly well, and it’s quite frustrating to see actors with such great passion and nuance in their performance, not be given enough scenes to grant the story a more profound impact.
That effort could also have been focused on the actual game-specific details. It does feel a little empty at times wondering through the ocean and there’s just not enough of those cinematic cutscene stills that are utilised. Compared to the amount of time spent staring at an almost blank LCD screen, when having submarine conversations – it’s just not an engaging aesthetic and comes across as almost barren-looking. I gotta give props to the graphics modelling team though, the level of detail in the animals’ textures could almost fool a passer-by into thinking you’re interacting with a David Attenborough, sea-life special. This game would look really sweet in Virtual Reality with a first-person mod, now that I mention it. That being said, you can unfortunately notice at times that this game seems like it was produced on a tight budget, filling out it’s visuals and story with just enough to get by. It really does start to feel a little hollow, the more you progress.
The music and sound, much like certain aspects of this game, is very minimalistic in it’s approach, but actually works in Beyond Blue’s favour here. You’ll be hearing a lot of mellow, chord-based piano ambiences and pad-synth sounds when swimming around, and they do sound quite fitting for the tone and setting. On the submarine player-hub, there’s more pop-ish music with electronic, indie-styled tunes that are actually pretty entertaining to listen to.
Sea creature sounds and rumbles are very true-to-life and lock in the player’s immersion, ten-fold. Sections of the game involve using replicated animal sounds and such, and hearing the recorded audio on playback is not just super-clean sounding and easy on the ear, but also adds an extra layer of education. If you’ve never heard the noises that whales make in real life, you’ll be taken aback, that’s for sure!
So Should You Play, Beyond Blue? Yes, if you’re a massive animal lover or environmentalist, there’s definitely something here for you. For everyone else, I’d have to say, not just yet. Even though the game’s relatively inexpensive, you may be left wondering if you’ve received your money’s-worth. The game leans on the shorter side too, running around 5 hours max, so there’s that to consider as well when making your purchase.
Review by Anthony Culinas