Every achievement hunter knows that when Ratalaika Games release a new port on the Xbox One, easy Gamerscore ensues. No offence to what has been before, but the experiences are usually cheap and throwaway, with most of the 1000G coming before you have even finished the game.
But Even the Ocean is different. Sure, it still offers modes to rush through the game and collect all the achievements in less than an hour, but play through the game on the normal setting and you are treated to a gorgeous game, wonderful story and an amazing soundtrack.
Even the Ocean started life as two separate games, Even and The Ocean. And at times, it still feels like a strange mix of two different games; on one hand you have these neatly intricate 2D platforming sections. Then, on the other hand, it is a tale of love, loss, corruption and everything in between.
The story came as a surprise, I have to admit, nor was I expecting it to be so engrossing. Even the Ocean presents itself with a simple 2D pixel art style. The backgrounds look pre-rendered and reminded me of classic backgrounds from the late ‘90s such as Final Fantasy and Resident Evil. There has always been something homely about these backgrounds, and in Even the Ocean this is still the case.
To further the old school look and feel, there is even an overworld that you use to travel between areas.
You play as Aliph, who has recently taken a role as a power plant technician. On your first job, your partner for the day – a woman named Cassidy – is caught in an accident and sadly dies. Her death however highlights that all the power plants in the world are currently acting up. The Mayor, noticing this, picks you out personally to help fix all the remaining power plants.
People warn Aliph to be wary of the Mayor, but a job is a job after all…
Then there is also the question of why these power plants are all failing at once. This time, with the help of Dr. Wodsnick, Aliph investigates the strange biological formations around the power plants.
However, Even the Ocean isn’t told from Aliph’s perspective. There is a strange being that appears at the very beginning and regales the tale to you. They also act as the checkpoint system, but other than that remain very reclusive.
The plot deals with some complex issues, despite its PEGI 7 rating. That isn’t to say they are unsuitable for little ones, but they are mature. Straight from the off there is a death, and the supporting cast are all dealing with the loss of a colleague or loved one. But then as the story progresses it brings in further issues that might not entertain a younger audience. It is however a unique tale that those old enough to take in the plot will undoubtedly enjoy.
The power plants are where Even the Ocean has its platforming sections, but with a really novel twist. Instead of having a traditional HP bar, it shows the balance of light and dark currently residing in Aliph. Light is represented by green, and Dark by the colour purple. To progress through the platforming sections, you must not have a full bar of either Light or Dark, as that will cause Aliph to die.
But there is another use for these energies – they can change Aliph’s physical attributes. Having a strong Light alignment can mean that Aliph can jump higher, and a strong Dark alignment means she can move faster. Whilst not immediately necessary to play around with these, later power plants will be inaccessible without manipulating these energies to some extent.
Thankfully, there are numerous ways to gain or lose energy. Most obstacles are charged one way or the other.
When not traversing power plants, Aliph will return to Whiteforge City, a shiny and very modern city in complete contrast to the areas that surround it. Here, she can convene with the Mayor, visit libraries and art galleries, and also deal with the fallout of Cassidy’s death. Cassidy’s partner – Yara – just so happens to be your next-door neighbour. Things don’t start well at the funeral, but as time progresses, Aliph and Yara can find comfort in each other.
Accompanying all this is a delightful soundtrack. Because Even the Ocean is a text-based story, the soundtrack needs to portray emotions and does so wonderfully. Cheerful, adventurous and melancholic in all the right places, it even uses silence when no music is playing perfectly.
Even the Ocean has a runtime of around eight hours but has plenty of methods to ensure you only experience the bits that interest you. Full Game is just that: the entire game without any omissions. Story mode skips the platforming sections set in the power plants, and Gauntlet mode removes the story beats. There is also Warp mode which allows you to pick your starting point and then play through from that point, but obviously isn’t recommended for first time players.
Warp mode could come in handy for the achievements if you miss any. There are 11 in total, with five related to story progression. The remaining six are for visiting areas in the world and opening the Journal. They are technically missable, but there are plenty of opportunities to unlock them all.
For a Ratalaika port, Even the Ocean on the Xbox One is a true hidden gem. Part platforming and part deep, engrossing story, it’s a real surprise. Aliph is thrown into the deep end in her new job and surrounding her is a supporting cast that is extremely well-written. It is then finished off with a lovely art style and gorgeous soundtrack to make Even the Ocean one of the last great [email protected] titles to be released on the Xbox One.