Even the Ocean
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Politics and gaming collide as we delve into the “unique” world of Even the Ocean. Making statements through art can be argued is one of the tenents by which art was created. Using art as a nonviolent act resistance is as old as art itself. Never has that been more apparent than in today’s politically charged landscape where everything offends or has an agenda. This can be at odds sometimes as games were derived as a form of entertainment and escape from the harsh realities of life. But, like books and film before it, games have not shied away from diving headfirst into the political bullfighting ring to push forward ideas that divide the community faster than an executive order. That aside, does Even the Ocean have substance, or is it just a social statement dressed up as a game?
From a conventional standpoint, ETO is a narrative-driven puzzle platformer steeped in lore and mystery. Starring as Aliph, you are tasked with repairing the power plants that dot the landscape. These are no ordinary power plants however as you will soon find out. The citizens of Whiteforge City have found a way to harvest the energy and convert it into vertically inclined light energy. This contrasts the dark energy which represents horizontal growth. The key feature of ETO is balancing the right energy in order to solve a myriad of environmental puzzles. Aliph reacts to the energy the same way it affects the world. Absorbing light energy gives her the ability to jump higher while the dark energy will help her cover larger gaps. Finding the right balance is a common theme throughout gameplay and the story.
Control-wise, ETO is solid. Aliph is responsive albeit it bit slow. When compared side by side to others in the genre it feels as though she is running in mud, especially when the wind comes into play. However, everything here does feel right. Using the environment and what it gives you to your advantage is key. You won’t be out upgrading abilities, instead, you will learn to better use what you have and the energy you absorb. This ties in well to the health system. Aliph cannot die in the traditional sense. If she absorbs too much of either kind she becomes overloaded and respawns at the last checkpoint statue, which are spread liberally throughout. When not in a power plant, the game is broken up into small hub segments where you can interact with other characters, buy some food or even practice on some training courses. There is even an overworld that is eerily reminiscent to Final Fantasy 2 (or 4). Unfortunately, it’s limited to just navigation and feels hollow and tacked on.
Audio-wise, ETO is delightful. The score is minimalistic but fully encapsulates the world you inhabit. Nature is king here as you can literally feel wind rush by you thanks to the sound design. This is is a stark contrast to the very video-gamey sound effects which while no intrusive ruin the immersion a little with such excellent soundscape. There is n voice acting but given the amount story that is delivered here, that would have been a tall task for the tiny 2 person development team.
Visually, ETO slots in nicely with pixel-based indie titles that have flooded the eShop. The colour palette is subtle but excellently used. The emphasis on light and dark really divides areas up as you learn to navigate areas without overloading Aliph. Each of the power plants feels similar, but thankfully there will be more nature-based areas you will traverse as well.
Even the Ocean is a solid title. The gameplay mechanics are tight and offer surprising additions like affixing your reflective shield in a specific direction. The story is one that will either inspire or draw ire. ETO at times walks a fine line between being heavy-handed and just being a propaganda piece. That said, this is a puzzle-platformer that is worth your time and will leave many with a satisfied grin when they complete their journey.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 21/08/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: RPG, Platformer
Developer: Melos Han-Tani
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: eShop