When the Xbox Series X’s line-up of titles was originally announced last year, Call of the Sea was the game that stood out the most for me – mainly because it looked stunning, but I enjoy a bit of puzzling too. Knowing that I was going to be purchasing a PlayStation 5, I was jealous that I wouldn’t be able to play the game at launch, but hopeful that it would eventually make its way to Sony’s console too. Well, five months on from its initial release, it has finally hit the PlayStation platform. Was it worth the wait though, or is this more of a case of style over substance?
Call of the Sea takes place in the 1930s and puts players in the role of Norah Everheart, a young woman who is afflicted with an illness that had previously struck down other members of her family. Fortunately, she has a loving husband who is willing to risk anything to find a cure for her – this includes adventuring to the dangerous South Pacific. This doesn’t end well though and, when he doesn’t return from the expedition, Norah sets out to rescue him herself by venturing to a mysterious yet gorgeous island. With just a couple of clues to his location guiding her, she hopes she’ll be able to find him and maybe, just maybe, a cure for her ailment too.
There is one problem, though: Nora isn’t an adventurer, but rather a teacher. However, her intelligence may actually come to use, with the island full of enigmas that’ll test her brains more than her brawn as she looks to uncover its many secrets.
The tale itself doesn’t grow to be too elaborate, but it features more than enough intrigue to keep players invested in what’s going on. You’ll start to care more for Norah’s plight the longer you spend with her, whilst the many documents and audio logs you find during the adventure help flesh out the finer details of the mystery. It certainly kept me invested during the eight-hour playtime and the payoff was satisfying, whilst the top-notch voice acting made Norah’s struggles all the more believable.
“No two puzzles ever feel the same, with the developer putting together some elaborate conundrums that really demand the player to think outside of the box.”
Gameplay takes place from a first-person perspective, with Call of the Sea’s adventure feeling like a puzzler with a blend of walking simulator-style storytelling. Players have the freedom to explore the luscious setting at their own pace and scour around for any hidden collectibles, though it is the puzzle-solving that makes up the meat of the experience.
The puzzles of Call of the Sea are all cleverly designed to test your logic in a multitude of ways. Some require good observation skills, some require you to interact with objects, whilst some will require the use of the clues you find littered around to solve. No two puzzles ever feel the same, with the developer putting together some elaborate conundrums that really demand the player to think outside of the box.
Some of them could be a little TOO elaborate mind, with their expansive and intricate setup demanding a lot of thought from the player. Nothing ever felt illogical or unfair, but the process of solving could be a little bit obtuse. It also probably doesn’t help that some of the clues to puzzles are found in your documents, but you can’t actually access them mid-puzzle – this felt like an oversight that just inconveniences the player more than anything.
“The island and its surroundings are absolutely stunning, with each locale full to the brim with colour and eye-popping details that help establish the beautiful yet mystical world.”
Thankfully, there’s a lot more good than bad, with Call of the Sea’s puzzle solving otherwise proving clever and satisfying in design. There are plenty of neat ideas on show that helped make the puzzles feel enjoyable to solve, whilst the sheer variety on offer meant you were never doing the same thing for too long. Nothing beat having that ‘eureka!’ moment and solving one of the trickier puzzles, whilst the way they’re integrated into the environments added to the mystique of the island as a whole.
The island itself is a huge spectacle, with it seemingly shifting and manipulating around you as you progress through the game. Call of the Sea isn’t afraid to embrace more magical themes in its storytelling and it’s something you’ll learn more about as you progress. It makes exploration feel all the more impressive though, which is a good job because there’s plenty to discover. Whilst a lot of Call of the Sea’s collectibles are optional to find, I’d implore players to seek them out if they want to learn more and get the *full* experience.
Whilst the puzzle-solving and exploration make up the bulk of the experience, there’s no doubting that it’s Call of the Sea’s visuals that take centre stage. The island and its surroundings are absolutely stunning, with each locale full to the brim with colour and eye-popping details that help establish the beautiful yet mystical world. There truly are some wonderful sights to encounter in the game, whilst the visual and lighting effects help bring it all to life. It’s just enchanting to look at and has a very distinct art style which helps make it stand out as one of the prettiest games I’ve played this year.
With its clever puzzle design and stunning visuals, Call of the Sea stands out as one of the more impressive puzzle-adventures that I’ve played. I had a good time solving its strong variety of enigmas, whilst the intriguing narrative kept me invested too – especially with all of the documents and recordings you can find which flesh out the tale.
There were some overly elaborate puzzles that could break the pace of the experience and there were some minor annoyances to be found with some aspect of the game’s design, but Call of the Sea is otherwise a very entertaining experience that kept me hooked in from start to end.
Developer: Out of the Blue
Publisher: Raw Fury
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Click here to visit the official website.