Beyond The Sea
This week, Ryan checks out the ethereal exploration game Sea Of Solitude, and looks ahead to next year’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2...
Plug & Play
We may be more used to slaying monsters than befriending them in our games, but then again, there’s much that’s enthrallingly different about Sea Of Solitude, the forthcoming explore-em-up from Berlinbased Jo-Mei Games. It’s a single-player adventure that takes place in a submerged fantasy world that looks more like a watercolour than a typical sandbox game; if you’ve played ThatGameCompany’s absorbing PlayStation 3 title Journey, you’ll recognise the soft-focus, dreamlike atmosphere Jo-Mei has managed to create.
The game’s protagonist is Kay, a young girl who sails around a seemingly deserted sunken metropolis. According to Jo-Mei’s creative head Cornelia Geppert, Kay’s loneliness and isolation is wont to turn her into a monster; “The story is about finding out what happened to her,” Geppert says, “and working out how to turn her back into a human being.”
As Kay traverses the world in her little boat, she’ll encounter other monsters: one looks like a huge black whale; another resembles a giant bird of prey, perched menacingly on the remains of a building jutting out of the sea. Each one of these monsters, Geppert continues, was once a human, too: they’re also suffering from different kinds of loneliness. Kate's – and the player’s – task is to progress the story by finding out what happened to them, and how they can be returned to their human form.
The presence of Kate and her boat will change the weather systems around each monster, so if one of them’s surrounded by rain and fog, say, then Kate’s approach will replace it with rays of sunshine. As problems are solved and monsters are transformed, the water level will also drop, revealing a bit more of the city beneath the waves.
It’s already a beautiful-looking game, inspired, Geppert says, by an affection for Japanese culture: Konami’s classic Silent Hill series, and the meditative animation of Studio Ghibli and its legendary filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki. Plenty of artists and designers in the west have been inspired by those very things, but we can’t think of another game that puts Miyazaki and Silent Hill together; the result is a gentle fantasy with streaks of intensity and foreboding.
At this early stage, we can’t speak for the game’s mechanics - there are puzzles and action, we’re told, but we don’t yet know how they’ll pan out - but in terms of design and subject matter, Sea Of Solitude certainly looks unique. “When human beings get too lonely," When Micro Mart first went on sale in 1985, it was the year of Super Mario, Gauntlet, Gradius, the Commodore Amiga and Atari 520ST. The magazine's ridden the crest of change for the past 31 years, and now, regrettably, it's time to sign off. Thanks to everyone at Micro Mart for letting me write these gaming pages for so long, and thanks especially to you, gentle readers, for joining us on our odyssey through 31 years of tech, gaming and strange peripherals. It's been an honour.