Voice Actors: Anna Akana (Ant Man, YouTube), Mira Furlan (Lost, Babylon 5), Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Black Sails, Hotel Rwanda), and Ally Maki (Toy Story 4)
Developer/Publisher: E-Line Media
Supported Platforms: Xbox One, PC, PS4, Apple Arcade
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Beyond Blue (2020) is yet another fantastic and beautifully created game from publisher E-Line Media, whose previous releases includes the award-winning game Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna), a lore-rich story about an Alaskan girl on a journey. Beyond Blue is a well-researched, satisfying experience with gorgeous imagery all wrapped up in a video game.
In Beyond Blue, you play as experienced deep sea diver and scientist Mirai (voiced by Anna Akana). It’s not a standard dive set-up, as Mirai is equipped with the latest tank-free dive suit and has a high-tech submarine as her home base. Your ocean experience is guided by two fellow scientists, Andre and Irina, through an underwater communications device. Your main mission is to seek out a pregnant sperm whale, while also gathering all sorts of data on the sea life you encounter along the way.
This data is collected by either picking up samples or “scanning.” The scanning feature helps you identify the various species around you, and the more you scan, the more information about that species is revealed. It’s a wonderfully simple method to keep the player engaged as they swim along to set markers, and I was constantly surprised by the strange names of sea life that I had never even heard of before. Much of this information is sent back to the submarine, where even more details are possible to view. Scanning a set number of dolphins, for example, made it possible to view certain dolphin habits in your submarine’s viewscreen, such as swimming speeds. At times, scanning was more difficult than I anticipated. Each sea creature has a barely visible circular icon hovering over them. When you scan it, the circle is filled in. At times this scannable circle was incredibly difficult to see. It didn’t help that the main map also had poorly discernible markers for sea life that had yet to be scanned.
Having partnered with BBC Studios and OceanX Media, Beyond Blue presents itself as an incredibly well-researched and educational game. Scientists were consulted and their video interviews (paired with gorgeous, collected real-life footage) are part of the unlockable content in the game called Ocean Insights. These videos are only a minute or two, but contain a wealth of information that the game only touches on. The developers certainly delved deeply to gather information and found ways to present their research that made the experience enjoyable and informational.
The story set forth in Beyond Blue is simple. Your focus is always on the sea life around you, yet the developers ensured that the few human characters felt real. Little things, like Mirai’s playlist or her relationship with her sister, are inserted to make them more three-dimensional. The other scientists also drop hints about their lives and ongoing personal problems. By sliding them into conversations, Beyond Blue makes the characters feel all that more real and alive.
There is no doubt that Beyond Blue is an absolutely serene experience. It echoes the magic of a real-life diving experience from the comforts of your home. As you watch murky shapes in the distance come closer and clearer to reveal a majestic sea creature, it’s truly a sight to behold. Anyone with a love for the ocean and the life that lives in it will find great comfort in spending hours swimming around a reef or the open ocean. You may even develop an obsession with diving after playing this game. After all, Beyond Blue only gives you a small glimpse of the massive ocean world before us as it is limited to only a handful of diving locations.
One of the biggest deficiencies I noticed during my dives was the lack of a photo mode. Photo mode has become increasingly popular in video games, from RPGs to action-adventure games, so it was a surprise to see Beyond Blue lacked this feature when it would be a perfect fit. Screen captures on Xbox One don’t do the game justice, especially when you’re trying to organize the perfect shot. Beyond Blue is a game that deserves to have its beauty captured.
Beyond Blue is an alluring and educational gaming experience. Any level of gamer would feel right at home jumping into its oceans and exploring every rock and crevice. It is a game worth spending hours unpacking, whether it be a stray octopus jumping out in surprise or sea turtles feeding.