Review: ‘Beyond Blue’ video game

Beyond blue is an amazing new single-player ocean adventure game that lets you explore the ocean and its creatures in an immersive and educational way. It is a fantastic virtual experience for any ocean enthusiast.

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Beyond Blue allows you to get up close and personal with some of the ocean’s most spectacular creatures (Image by E-Line Media)

Developed by E-Line Media, in collaboration with BBC Studios, Ocean-X and world leading marine scientists, Beyond Blue is a single-player narrative adventure that takes you deep into our planet’s beating blue heart. Utilizing the same technology behind E-Line’s BAFTA award-winning ‘Never Alone’ (an exploration game surrounding Alaskan Native culture) and inspired by BBC’s Blue Planet II, the team have created a fully immersive underwater world that reflects the awesome wonder and unbounded mystery of our oceans. With a compelling story, stellar voice cast, engaging gameplay and science focused achievements, Beyond Blue provides players with a truly unique virtual underwater experience that encourages them to learn, explore and care more about the marine world.

The story

Set in the near future in an unspecified region of the Western Pacific, the game follows the underwater adventures of Mirai (Anna Akana), a marine scientist and ocean explorer on a submarine-bound research expedition. With the help of her colleagues Andre (Hakeen Kae-Kazim) and Irina (Mira Furlan) she studies the marine life in the area throughout a series of dives in a futuristic scuba suit. The main storyline follows Mirai’s strong personal connection with a pod of sperm whales, including a newly born calf, who find themselves at risk from all angles. This provides a compelling narrative to the game which is needed to add some structure to the expansive and immersive world the player finds themselves in.

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Mirai swimming alongside her pod of sperm whales, who feature heavily throughout the game’s storyline (Image by E-Line Media)

In addition to the main story the game also explores complex issues of human impacts on the environment, family relationships and grief. This is achieved through a series of calls and messages in-between dives with Mirai and her research colleagues, as well as her sister Ren (Ally Maki) who is caring for their dementia suffering Grandmother. This adds another level to the story and helps include some much needed emotional pay-off. With the option to make conversational decisions the player also remains invested in these sub-plots without feeling left out. Whilst the story may not stand up against some of the more blockbuster video games, it is a solid effort that helps tie the game together.

The gameplay

One of the main areas the game excels is in the actual gameplay of the dives. By setting the game in the near future it allows for some useful technological upgrades, including a pressure resistant dive suit, hydrophone buoys and advanced drones, which allow for immersive exploration of the underwater world. State of the art graphics, animal designs and swimming mechanics also make controlling the character underwater a joy and something you can return to post credits for hours of aimless fun. A total of 8 unique dive sites including environments such as coral atolls, brine pools, open water and hydrothermal vents, also allow for a total exploration of the entire ocean ecosystem.

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Technological advancements and diverse maps let you explore parts of the ocean normally out of reach for most people (Image by E-Line Media)

In between dives you spend your time in a futuristic one-man submarine, where you can interact with the other characters in the game from the helm. With large bay windows and a 360o viewing area at the front, you remain immersed in the game’s underwater world and able to see a number of different marine creatures surrounding the vessel. A large number of interactive items aboard the sub also helps to give some background information on Mirai and adds another dimension to the space, whilst an original soundtrack featuring songs by the likes of Miles Davis, Sophie Gibson, The Marias, LIPS and Tokimonsta play over a tannoy system, which you can even control through a tablet. All of which makes the sub-time between dives a much more fun and interactive experience.

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Mirai onboard the research sub in-between dives (Image by E-Line Media)

The science

Another area where this game excels is with the actual science and educational aspects of both the story and gameplay. In total there are 47 species you can interact with on your dives, all of which are accurately designed not only in appearance but also with regards to behaviours and even vocalisations. These include sperm whales, leatherback turtles, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, Chilean devil rays, whale sharks and ocean sunfish, all of which can be scanned during dives to reveal additional information which can be accessed in an in-depth index via the main menu. This is thanks to the work of expert consultants such as Dr Mandy Joye and Dr David Gaber who helped to make the game as educational as possible.

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In-depth scans of individual creatures lets you learn more about each species you encounter (Image by E-Line Media)

In addition to being able to find out more about the individual animals you interact with, the game also provides opportunities to learn about particular topics and conservation issues through what they call ‘insights’. These are short video clips that you unlock throughout the story on subjects such as humpback whale songs, hydrothermal vents, brine pools, underwater noise, as well as the stories of individuals such as those involved in the games production and conservation heroes like Sylvia Earle. Quotes from other leading scientists and conservationists are also displayed during the loading screens between dives and highlights how science and conservation are at the heart of the game.

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The game allows you to explore the science of the marine environment like never before (Image by E-Line Media)

The experience

Overall Beyond Blue provides ocean enthusiasts with a truly unique and immersive underwater experience from the comfort of their living room sofas. As a video game it is fun and interactive, whilst as an educational learning tool it is engaging and entertaining. It gives players the chance to explore parts of the ocean they would never be able to in person and discover things they may otherwise never get to. It truly is a one of a kind game that delivers on the virtual underwater experience it promises.

To check out some of the gameplay you can watch the official game trailer below.

 

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