I could feel this cleansing aura wash over me the moment I took my first dive in Beyond Blue.
As soon as I was submerged, I was completely relaxed, just swimming through vast, open waters, scanning the inhabitants to learn everything I could about them.
From that moment on, Beyond Blue felt like an interactive version of Blue Planet, which, is precisely as it should be with E-Line Media investing months of research into the ocean with the BBC.
This isn’t another Maneater, where you’re frantically swimming around, avoiding the jaws of peril, but a very well produced, edutainment application with a surprisingly compelling story bringing it together.
You play a marine biologist called Mirai, who is swimming through the Western Pacific ocean in search of her beloved Sperm Whales and their newborn.
Mirai is on a livestream, recording sound samples of these mammals, while observing their behaviour, hoping to catalogue a never before seen breakthrough. Mirai and her team take regular questions on the streams as you glide through the waters, helping to break prolonged silence, while remaining informative about your setting.
This is a very smart way to convey some interesting factoids to the player, without intrusive mini encyclopedias popping up all over the screen, or long-winded, unskippable monologues that come across like lectures and it all blends into the game’s larger narrative.
Mirai has her reasons for being so invested in these whales, having studied them for years and forming her own personal attachments. Turns out, though, there’s more to her story still as she engages in regular video calls between dives with her sister and wider team.
This gives the player insight into the challenges each member of the diving team face – whether it be problems at home, or illness preventing them from diving. You learn as much about the humans as you do the sealife, and it certainly offers some compelling parallels and contrasts.
The player is often presented with multi-choice responses to the conversational points, providing opportunities to change the narrative just slightly. Whichever way you go, there’s always some surprising twists and turns and heart-wrenching moments.
The hub area where you take the calls also lets you study individual creatures from under the sea, change your tunes – there’s some really unexpected beats in here – learn more about Mirai’s reading habits, and even get an overview of the objectives of the next dive.
Beyond Blue is a very well structured game, but the essence of it essentially has you scouting out creatures, then sending out small drones to scan them. And through that you’ll get to swim with dolphins, small fish, even sharks. It’s ridiculously satisfying.
Because of that, it all feels so very soothing and relaxing. There’s no imminent threat or danger to you, but there’s still enough of a compelling hook to keep you playing through each chapter and wanting to see every inch the game has to offer.
It’s a really refreshing change of pace, quite honestly. A nice, switch-off, calming title where I can actually learn something and enjoy myself while doing it. The sound of Mirai just soaring through the sea just sets off the hairs on the back of my arm. And watching the mammals play together and interact with one another truly soothes my soul.
There’s a real sense of purity to Beyond Blue. A game that just wants you to appreciate life beyond our own, getting up close and personal with reefs, while helping you understand the day to day lives of so much wonderful sealife that’s often taken for granted.
My heart feels full playing Beyond Blue. An adventure of exploration as much as anything else, but complemented by a story with some surprising hooks.
Ultimately, though, it’s just about looking out at sea, taking in the stunning visuals appreciating what’s in view, and that all I needed Beyond Blue to be and precisely what I’ve been looking for in a game between intense experiences.
Beyond Blue is now available on PC, PS4, and XO
Tested on PC
Code provided by Publisher