Note: PS4 Review Code provided by Ratalaika Games
Released in 2016 this game was the second project from a duo whose first led project was Anodyne. 4 years later a publisher would pick up the former PC exclusive title and port it to consoles. Question is whether this game with a kind of post-apocalyptic Super Nintendo inspired puzzle platformer is still worth checking out years later. Let us find out as we take a look at Even the Ocean, published by Ratalaika Games and developed by Analgesic Productions.
Platforms: PC (Steam, GOG, itch.io Humble Bundle), PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBOX One
Genres: Drama, Platformer, Puzzle, Sci-Fi
Length: 8 1/2 hours (First playthrough)
Description: From the creators of ‘Anodyne’ comes a grand story about Aliph, a lowly power plant technician for Whiteforge City, who finds her world turned upside-down after a routine maintenance trip goes awry. Now, working directly with Whiteforge’s Mayor Biggs to face an unknown menace, Aliph must navigate her newfound power and influence to save the city.
Aliph’s identities, environmental issues and the world’s fate all hang in the balance of Light and Dark energies.
Experiencing Even the Ocean’s story somewhat reminded me of another game I played and reviewed, Timespinner. Both are dramas, cover heavy themes, have a 32-bit Super Nintendo-esque presentation and a diverse cast featuring LGBT+ characters. EtO’s world set in a futuristic environment instead of a fantasy one the characters ethnic origins are more identifiable. Expect to see characters of different ethnic origins such as African, European and Middle-Eastern along with different sexual orientations and identities. As mentioned the game covers several heavy themes such as existentialism, sense of belonging, self identification, man vs nature, discrimination and more. Aliph herself is a neat protagonist searching for a purpose after moving away from home. She starts off lacking confidence but throughout her journey grows emotionally stronger. This of course has its ups and downs as players will notice. Most of the side-characters have their own emotional struggles related to the aforementioned themes.
Next up is the presentation. The world and its history are interesting as Aliph learns more about it through the Library, museum and areas she visits. The CGs, world map and locations all have a 32-Bit Super Nintendo RPG look to them similar to the aformentioned Timespinner. It is quite nice. I mentioned the game had a kind of post-apocalyptic vibe to it and while that is not exactly the case the world and soundtrack have a beautiful and somber feel to it. Something bittersweet. It is difficult to describe but players will get it when they listen to a couple of tunes as they progress in the story and check out the world.
Oh and the game title has more than one meaning.
On to the gameplay. Even the Ocean is a puzzle platformer in which Aliph is tasked to go to various Power Plants that were mysteriously damaged and restore power. The game is split into five acts with Acts 2 to 4 giving Aliph the choice of a set number of levels to go to ala Mega Man 7 and 8 except here Aliph travels to them on foot in the Overworld. Acts 1 and 5 only have one level. Upon visiting the levels Aliph will explore the vicinity and interact with locals, if there are any, as she heads toward the designated Power Plants. While exploring hold the Action Button to find/access levels. In Acts 2 and 3 they are easy to spot but some are well hidden in Act 4 requiring extra searching.
The main gimmick of the game is Light/Green and Dark/Purple Energy. The world operates based on these forces similar to positive and negative electricity. Light/Green Energy has a vertical gravitational poll and Dark/Purple is horizontal. The more green energy Aliph has, the higher she can jump and the faster she can run and leap with purple energy. However, too much green or purple energy means Back to the last Save Point (Fortunately there are many of them in the Full Game). Mechanisms, doors, enemies and obstacles all revolve around these two energies. The most common “enemy”/obstacle are green and purple flowers that shoot spores when touched. The key is to manage Aliph’s Energy Meter for most of the game but there will be a few times players must absorb more for certain jumps. What I mean is sometimes Aliph will briefly need to absorb a lot of green or purple energy to make certain jumps or dashes. Along with energy management Aliph will have a shield to block or deflect energy rays and bullets (make sure to push the Shield button and the direction which to hold the shield. There were several times I got hit by energy bullets despite the shield being in front of me because I did not push the button.). She can also wall jump ala Mega Man X and Zero. Each level has their own obstacles such as bounce pads, lasers or energy ghosts and some later levels carry over obstacles from previous levels. At the end of each Power Plant there is a room where players must pick horizontal or vertical poles and take them to pink power point. Be sure the pole is aligned the same way as the power point. While carrying the pole there is a moving ball. Players must ensure the ball does not touch any enemy or energy obstacle before reaching the power point or they will have to repeat the run. It is less complicated than it sounds. After inserting all the poles in the Power Points there is one last light puzzle to complete the level. Most are quite simple. Some later levels differ but most of them follow this format. The game has a balanced difficulty for most players to pick up and enjoy.
The game features several modes of play, be it the full story, a Power Plant Gauntlet, focus solely on story and Speedrun Mode. There are also options to make the game easier for a more casual experience, such as permanent barrier, no damage, lower energy spending etc.
As for the yuri, there is some for Aliph. Players will have to judge it for themselves.
Overall Even the Ocean is a fun puzzle platformer with a story that covers several strong themes. The story has an interesting but intentionally somber tone. The same can be said for the presentation. It looks good and plays good but this is no happy go lucky romp. Recommended to puzzle platformer fans who want a bit more meat in their plot.
The game is available on most console stores (eShop, PS Store and XBOX Store) and PC ones (GOG, Steam, itch.io)