Review – Beyond Blue

Playing Beyond Blue shortly after playing Maneater is quite ironic. Not long ago, I was having the time of my life killing every single marine animal and/or naive human tourist with my super mutated bull shark, but now I’m here playing a relaxing diving game while learning more about marine wildlife and how whales communicate with each other. And I actually enjoyed my time with it, before you think I’d get bored by not being able to murder a single goldfish.

Beyond Blue_20200610222836

I have played enough Maneater to know this is not a good situation.

Beyond Blue is a game in which you control a marine biologist diving in the Pacific Ocean. She broadcasts underwater livestreams alongside two other scientists, with the main focus of the show being sperm whales, their behavior, and their “singing” capabilities. With that being said, there are lots of other animals scattered throughout the game’s various maps, such as sharks, squids, jellyfish, and leatherback turtles. The protagonist and her colleagues will always provide some insightful information about these animals when you get close to them.

Yes, this is an educational game. It is completely devoid of violence and action. Your main focus is to freely dive, look for animals, scan them, and unlock scientific information for you to read afterwards. This is more fun than it sounds, but then again, I actually enjoy zoology. I like reading about animals, their behavior patterns, anatomy, and so on. The more individuals of the same species you scan, the more information about them you’ll unlock. Think of it as a nonviolent Pok√©mon experience that takes the “too much water” joke to a whole new level. Gotta scan ’em all!

Beyond Blue_20200611004233

Remember kids, they are dolphins, not whales.

Although the game is heavily based on its educational message, with even some nods to how humans constantly screw up marine wildlife with garbage being shown at the bottom of the sea, there is a story in here. Some of the elements featured in this game’s plot are a grandmother with a disease, someone’s daughter playing in an indie band, not trusting someone who wants biological samples for pharmaceutical reasons, as well as a mysterious noise coming from the depths of the sea. None of those elements are as interesting as the actual educational gameplay elements in Beyond Blue, turning what should have been a straightforward underwater exploration game into a linear, level-based adventure in which you need to go from buoy to buoy in order to progress with the plot. Thankfully, the swimming mechanics are intuitive enough to make the act of going from point A to point B somewhat fun, although a bit too slow.

Technically speaking, Beyond Blue is impressive. The animals are well-modeled and animated. In a very ironic twist, your human character is the only one that looks off-putting, as she has the most plastic face I have ever seen in a video game character, completely devoid of expressions. The only other issue regarding the visuals lies on the somewhat unreliable framerate, but considering this game’s relaxing and tension-free nature, it doesn’t hinder the experience that much.

Beyond Blue_20200611011217

Excuse me ma’am, do you have a moment to hear about our lord and savior Cthulhu?

The sound department is a lot meatier than what you would expect from a game set in the bottom of the ocean, as there is a ton of voice acting. Sadly, as previously mentioned, the game’s story isn’t interesting at all, meaning that you will mostly ignore what your character and her colleagues are saying. There is also a licensed soundtrack in here, featuring songs from The Flaming Lips and even Miles Davis’ “Flamenco Sketches“, but you can only listen to them in between levels, when you’re resting in your submarine.

Beyond Blue_20200611130058

I’m glad this is a nonviolent game, or else I’d be dead by now.

I did enjoy Beyond Blue, but I feel the game would have been a lot more interesting had the developers decided to focus more on the game’s educational and explorational aspects instead of a linear story-based structure. It’s a game that makes the act of looking for marine animals in order to learn more about them really enjoyable. Too bad there’s also a somewhat uninteresting plot in here; one that only drags the experience down. I hope they decide to develop a sequel in the near future. One that just throws you into a vast, open ocean, with the sole task of looking for animals in order to scan and learn more about them.

 

Graphics: 8.0

A gorgeous rendition of the vastness of the ocean, with great animal models, animations, and lighting effects, but there are some very noticeable framerate issues.

Gameplay: 8.5

There are some issues regarding the game’s camera, but all in all, the controls are very good. The act of freely swimming around is very intuitive, although a bit slow at times.

Sound: 7.5

There is a lot of voice acting in here, and it’s well performed. Sadly the story the game tries to tell isn’t interesting at all times. There is also a surprising amount of licensed music included in the game, although you can’t hear it while you’re diving.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Swimming around, scanning sea animals and then reading about them on your fact sheet is a lot more interesting than the actual story this game is trying to tell.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Beyond Blue is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Beyond Blue was provided by the publisher.