Call of the Sea Review | Dear Old Pal

Let me just say it off the bat, Call of the Sea is probably my favorite game to release this year (that I played that is). And if it weren't for the fact that I played Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice this year as well, it would be my favorite game that I played this year as well. This adventure game by Out of the Blue Games was one that I expected to simply be a quick four to five hours that had a bit of fun with some pretty art, but I wasn't really expecting anything too special. Luckily, the game proved me wrong early on and continued to do so for the rest of its playtime. This game is one that has stuck with me since I finished the game a few days ago. 

Call of the Sea follows the story of Norah, a woman inflicted with an unknown illness. Norah's husband, Harry Everhart, had set off on an expedition with a crew to try and find a cure for that illness and save his wife's life. Having not heard from Harry for a long while, Norah sets off to his last known location, a dangerous island that many warn not to go to, in order to try to find her love. The game has a few obvious inspirations, Guillermo Del Toro's Shape of Water being probably the most obvious. However, the developers used their characters and setting to really make the story their own. The sense of mystery and other worldly-ness, which is reminiscent of the works of Lovecraft, makes for a mystical and enthralling four-five hours.

The choice of setting Call of the Sea in 1934 helped to add to the storytelling quite nicely. All the story details are delivered through Norah's internal monologue and various letters and journal entries scattered around the crew's old campsites. The very prominent use of letters makes the era the story is set in important to its believability. The writing and voice acting work so that these written pieces never feel confusing or boring. In fact, with every new letter or image I discovered and heard Norah's response to, I only found myself deeper engulfed in the story. I didn't actually realize how in it I was until the ending, of which there are two possibilities. To prevent spoilers, I won't go into much detail, but there is a final decision that must be made, and while it was a fairly easy one for me to make, it was one that I felt in my chest when I realized that I had to make it. This moment was made even more impactful after playing through the game which is quite linear in fashion. You have the option to explore more or just try to solve the next puzzle but past that there wasn't much room to go around the already predetermined story. This ending was the first time that the player really had an input in what happened to Norah, and for me, that added to its impact.

The story of Call of the Sea isn't the only thing that made me want to always explore every nook and cranny I could, it was also the art design. Even though I only played on the Xbox One S (I've heard it looks even better on the Series X|S), there were multiple times where I'd find a view that made me just stop for a moment and admire it. The ambiance of the Island was also improved greatly by a beautiful background score and lovely diegetic sounds coming from the island. On the note of sound, I'd also like to compliment the voice acting again. Cissy Jones (known for Firewatch and The Walking Dead) gives a heartfelt and emotional performance for Norah, one that really draws you into the character and her journey. The story also focuses a lot on Norah and her husband's love for each other, and though we don't get to hear Harry's voice often, when we do, Yuri Lowenthal (known for Marvel's Spider-Man) makes us feel the care and love that he has for his wife.

With this type of adventure game, the puzzles along the way can really make or break your experience. If they are too difficult or out of place, you'll be left more frustrated and miss out on the story a bit, but if they are too easy you'll not take the time needed to feel each moment's impact. Call of the Sea incorporates the puzzles into the story and exploration of the island wonderfully. Though the puzzles are never too difficult to solve, the most time-consuming ones were in the 6th and final chapter. The clues are all fairly easy to find, however, and some of the puzzles, especially earlier on, you can even figure out without even having found all the clues. This allowed for the puzzle-solving, and all parts of the gameplay aspect, to have a very natural flow as you surveyed your surroundings.

Overall the game, to its core, is a simple one. But it is made exceptional by the wonderful use of every aspect of storytelling. The writing, the art, the sound, the acting, everything about the game is carefully chosen to enhance the emotions and messages of the story. If you have Xbox Game Pass, then there is simply no excuse for not having played this game already, so go and do it. If you don't have Game Pass, I would still recommend picking up a copy and playing, while the game is only 4-5 hours, in my opinion, those hours are well worth your time and money. Call of the Sea is available now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. A review code for the Xbox One was provided by the publisher.

Post a Comment