Even the Ocean Review

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Even the Ocean has a very distinctive style, you can instantly tell it was made by the same team as Anodyne. Not just from the visual style either, but from the tone and feel of the game. While the game has some very inventive platforming mechanics and puzzles, story and atmosphere is at the forefront of Even the Ocean. This world is drenched in a dreamlike mystery, and you won’t be getting any concrete answers very soon. Frustrating as this might be to some, you cannot help but be awestruck by the wonder of this world. Thought provoking soundscapes sweep each location that never get old. Even the Ocean doesn’t give you much time before hitting you with some quite heavy themes of life, death and existentialism.

The themes tie in very closely with the mechanics of Even the Ocean. Two different energies govern this world, light and dark. Absorb too much light or dark energy and you’ll have to restart from one of the very frequent checkpoints. Light energy pronounces vertical movement and dark energy horizontal movement. These effects can not only be seen in how your character move but how the world is designed. Whiteforge the capital city of light is defined but a towering white lighthouse. This mechanic is quite a unique spin to a typical health bar, there is no such thing as “taking damage” only absorbing different types of energies. Possibly a philosophical reflection on how there is no such thing as good or evil, only our perception of the world around us?

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Regardless, this makes for some interesting puzzles that slowly ramp up in difficulty. You are always trying to stay in balance, some levels will have you running through clouds of energy, activating small plants of the opposite energy to stay in balance. Your initial job as a technician is to restore functionality to the many power plants. Most technicians use a full body suit to prevent them from absorbing any energies whatsoever, but Aliph the main character expresses his discomfort with these suits early on the story. A play on how some people numb themselves from the world around them, rather than make real connections with one another.

Your shield is also an intrinsic part of the gameplay. Holding down the ‘C’ button will lock your shield in a certain position. This enables to block projectiles, slowly float downwards through updrafts of wind, or bounce on beams of energy. Some of the actions you’re made to do a similar to patting your head and rubbing your stomach. However the platforming is tight and responsive so this rarely becomes frustrating.

Some of the level design is a bit repetitive, however the world itself never feels this way. Some beautiful set-pieces will only last a mere few minutes, never to be reused again and this makes those moments feel incredibly special. You will stumble across some bizarre and unexplainable characters, for instance a giant star fish. Each character has a story to tell, and it doesn’t feel like simple padding either. One small story elegantly shows a simple misunderstanding between two lovers that was blown out of proportion. Everything is refreshingly relatable, it might be a somewhat extravagant story from the outset but it’s defined with aspects that we all have an affinity with. The frequent inner monologue of the main character Aliph helps too. Sometimes it feels a bit overwritten, describing thoughts that are already heavily implied. But once I got accustomed to this method of storytelling, I couldn’t help but ask myself why more games hadn’t done this before.

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Analgestic Productions have clearly learnt a great deal from their experience making Anodyne. It shares many of the same qualities, the most prominent being the dreamlike feeling it has. But it is much more cohesive in its pacing and the presentation of it’s themes. Anodyne often felt jarring going from one extreme location to another but Even the Ocean is nearly seamless. Returning to your house in the city of Whiteforge repeatedly after each task isn’t tiresome, it makes you feel grounded in the world around you, something that was lacking before.

I am still very fond of Anodyne’s soundtrack, keeping it on my phone for years after the game came out. Even the Ocean’s soundtrack is a step up, likewise with the game itself it’s much more consistent and even more haunting.

Even the Ocean manages to tell a profound story without any of the grandiose cliché. Combining many relatable stories into an overall very meaningful picture of inclusivity. It manages to strike a difficult balance between platforming gameplay and storytelling, always giving you enough of a breather between the two. I have purposely steered away from talking too much about the story in fear of spoiling too much, but it will stay in my memory for a long time to come. If you’re still unsure if this game is for you, maybe give Anodyne a try, otherwise I hope you enjoy your time with it as much as I did.

Rating 8

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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