When a game tries to teach players something it is often forced or not really fun to play, with Beyond Blue from E-line Media it is the exact opposite. all the way back in 2014 E-line published one of the most inspiring games I ever played, Never Alone. Built with the Alaska Native community it was an excellent game to really discover the Iñupiat people. With Beyond Blue they continue this path but with the ocean and especially whales in mind. The amount of preparation from the devs shows while playing this exploration game, animals behave exactly as expected and I have learned so much about the ocean and the creatures that are unreachable for so many of us. How badly I want to deep-dive with sperm whales, swim with dolphins, … it will forever remain a dream but with Beyond Blue I can virtually do it on my Xbox.
What we liked!
- Do you fear underwater gameplay, just like me? Oh boy, how many games mess up underwater gameplay right? The game puts you in control of Mirai, and luckily she moves around in the water like a dream. The controls are perfectly nailed and don’t cause any frustration. Analog sticks are used to swim around, with LT and RT you go up and down and for scanning the sea creatures you have to open your scanner with LB. Actually scanning is done by keeping the scan-circle on the animal and holding the RB button. You won’t have to dodge sharks or whatever else dangerous, Beyond Blue is completely non-violent and I love that. Your main focus is on exploring the beautiful ocean and learning more about roughly 50 different creatures.
- Behavior from animals: Did you know that dolphins visit wellness? Not in the traditional way that humans do, but dolphins rub their skin against the lush corals? This and many other unexpected things is what you’ll see while playing Beyond Blue. A lot of work has been done to give a very realistic experience, with most of the focus on whales. Visually, animations and sound are all crafted with love and attention to detail.
- Ocean Insights: 16 documentaries are unlocked while you play the game, please – please – please take the time and watch them. They all take around two minutes and they teach you how everything works on the tech side but more importantly teach you so much about the magical creatures from the sea. They are a MUST watch and a good enough reason to buy the game if you are into wildlife documentaries. One specific Ocean Insight about the Dominica Sperm Whale Project learns you that female sperm whales stay together and that male whales wander off alone for 15 to 20 years when they become a teenager. I mean for me that’s fascinating that the same species can be so socially different depending on gender.
- Voice-actors, music, and animal sounds: What a voice cast, talent selected from Lost, Hotel Rwanda, Toy Story and Youtube stars make sure that the story is told in a very realistic and interesting way. I can’t mention enough what a great job Anna Akana or Mira Furlan does in this game! An even bigger star is the whale sounds, or should I say songs? I fell in love with the magical sounds that they produce.
- Actionless gameplay might not be for everyone: Some games don’t need action to keep it interesting, at least for me. When the immersion and game world fascinates me enough I can honestly spend hours and hours exploring and doing repetitive tasks. I can imagine that some players aren’t satisfied with what Beyond Blue provides. Frankly, I think that’s a bummer because this informative game SHOULD be enjoyed by all. Maybe with knowledge about whales and the other sea creatures comes a better person that tries to take care more about the environment. I think that this is a focus from E-line Media, educating players so whales still have a future in our selfish and destructive ways of life. High respect for that!
What we disliked
- Sub-section: I loved being in the sea but things take a turn when you visit your little sub between missions. It doesn’t really help that being in the water is so well crafted but the sub feels basic and dull. Such a shame that a remarkably good voice-acted Mirai comes over like a robot. Se doesn’t really have emotion in her face. The submarine parts provide some backstory to the character which helps to like her a lot more but it is really clear that face animations weren’t a high priority.
Wow… Beyond Blue is something so well crafted with love that it is hard to not like this. Educating players about whales is not only a worthy thing to do but also a fun one. E-line Media delivered something fascinating, thoughtful, and beautiful, clearly a passion project.