The folks over at E-Line Media allowed me to take a deep dive into the ocean and discover some of its inhabitants in Beyond Blue, an exploration game that takes players to an atoll with a research team looking to unravel its secrets.
The game’s plot centers around a scientist named Mirai who is also a freediver, partaking in a joint research project where new technology is being used along with a diving suit that allows her to stay underwater for long periods. Mirai’s main focus is set on a pod of sperm whales that she’s been following for years but strange occurrences in the ocean seem to be distressing them.
Now onto the game itself. Control-wise, they’re easy to learn but the tutorial at the game’s start could use some work but at the same time, you almost don’t even need a tutorial. When it comes to visuals, they’re stellar! The lighting effects are realistic to how it looks underwater, the vibrant colors of the sea life and the effects of how the surface of the water looks from underwater adds a nice touch of realism.
The mechanics of using scans on the fish you encounter in the game is fun as the more of the same species you scan the more you learn about them but unfortunately, the screen effect of the scanner really obstructs your view of the sea around you and honestly, you’re swimming with the scanner on at all times so you don’t miss anything.
The sound mixing in Beyond Blue needs a lot of work! You do have sound options but that almost makes some of the sound issues worse especially when it comes to dialogue, if you increase the volume on speech, Mirai is ridiculously louder than the other characters that no matter how you adjust the speech volume are too quiet. Along with the sound, the music… the original score for the game is very fitting and catches the magic of undersea exploration…but the soundtrack (or Mirai’s mixtape that you can listen to on the sub)…except for Miles Davis, there’s no other way of saying it, it sucks.
Now on to the one part I can’t let go… the voice acting. Two out of the three supporting acting roles played by Mira Furlan (Lost, Babylon 5) and Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Black Sails, Hotel Rowanda), their acting skills shined through as they sounded believable in their supporting roles. The third supporting role, that being the main character’s younger sister, is voiced by Ally Maki (Toy Story 4), unfortunately, given the way her voice acting came off, she had little direction and I think she may have been a better choice to play Mirai. Mirai was voiced by Anna Akana, a YouTuber. I never heard of her before playing this game but before learning what she’s known for, I thought her portrayal of Mirai was unbelievable as a scientist with a doctorate as her dialogue delivery came across as being in a constant state of “Vlogger voice” where she sounded upbeat even when her character was supposed to be mad/upset. Later in the game, her tone changes and matches what is going on coming across as if the first half of her dialogue reordering was done by herself before the director arrived.
Now the story. To be honest, I did not know exactly what the plot was, I know the main core of the story surrounded Mirai observing a pod of sperm whales but there were too many subplots playing out that made me ask if they should have been included in the game anyway. I feel the game was trying to tackle too many topics at once. One minute you’re learning about Mirai’s family problems one minute, next it’s about undersea mining, then about if you can trust this character or not, then it’s about killer algae, then so on and so forth.
Now I’ll end on a positive, as you explore the game, you can unlock 16 mini-documentaries about ocean exploration and conservation which are pretty nice visually to watch and you walk away with a bit of a better understanding with what goes into ocean research and why the research is done, to begin with, seems fitting for a game that’s rated E (for everyone).
Overall, Beyond Blue is a visually pleasing game that is made with ocean lovers in mind. The exploration is fun, swimming among ocean wildlife, and unlocking information about the creatures through scanning. It’s made with education in mind but unfortunately hits a snag when it comes to technical issues with sound that can be easily fixed with patches. With that said, I enjoyed the game very much.
On my scale of 10 stars: The game was hurt by the multiple storylines trying to be pushed out as much as possible for one game, the bad sound mixing (as said can be fixed post-launch), the soundtrack, poor dialogue delivery by the main character/actor, and loss of sight by some of the scanner mechanics but was saved by stunning visuals and art, the focus on education, easy to master controls, and realistic swimming animation, Beyond Blue is 7/10
Beyond Blue is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.