Call of the Sea Review – As Beautiful as It Is Challenging

    Title: Call of the Sea
    Developer: Raw Fury
    Release Date: December 8, 2020
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Out of the Blue
    Genre: Puzzle Adventure

Immersion in puzzle adventures is everything. There have been plenty of times where I find myself playing a game within the genre and not really caring about the world around me as much as I am focused on getting to the next puzzle. I think I’ve been starved for a decent puzzle adventure, which has led me to dive headfirst into the Out of the Blue-developed Call of the Sea. Where this game excels is how it immerses the player in a world that begs to be explored, with a few unconventional design choices.

Call of the Sea takes place in 1934 as a woman named Norah finds herself on a quest to find her missing husband. It’s explained that her husband initially set out in search of a cure for an affliction that she suffers from where her arms have black spots on them. The entire adventure is crafted in a way where we learn more about Norah’s past, her relationship with her husband, and the events that took place on the island involving the entire crew.

I can’t remember the last game I spent time meticulously reading every note and looking over each found object. Norah also keeps a journal that she updates upon each discovery, which is also full of text that gives insight to maybe something you missed or just her thoughts that aren’t explicitly present in the dialogue. By the mid-point of the adventure, I had a good idea of who each of the crew members were and the events that transpired without even meeting them.

The excellence of this game’s narrative can only be attributed to Norah’s carrying of the story. She’s never in your face with facts or overbearing with her inputs. She’s an intelligent lead voice in the game, which adds some masterful dialogue to the situation without revealing too much to the player. This makes discoveries feel like she and I were making them together regardless if she was much more versed in the lore of this island.

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Puzzles within the game are all about perspective as you make your way through the many areas. Taking time to inspect tabletops and look at images on the wall will make things easier for you when reaching a hurdle with progression. The difficulty is quite interesting as well, given that the developer chose to incorporate easier puzzles that revolve around a much more complicated design. Finding all the pieces lead to the answer, but it’s not always that easy.

In fact, I was stuck several times throughout the game as I loomed over notes and clues and double backed to see if there was anything that I missed. Still, I was never disheartened or overly frustrated, given that all the tools you need to solve the puzzle are right in front of you. I did find that one of the later puzzles just wasn’t explained adequately and could have used a bit more QA to limit the trial-and-error that it took to solve. It was one of those, “I know the answer, but I’m not sure how the game wants me to deliver it.”

Following this puzzle is a race to the conclusion, but nothing matched its level of difficulty. There were moments where I expected a curveball, but instead, they seemed to be more consumed with wrapping up the narrative than presenting puzzles. That doesn’t mean that the later puzzles weren’t clever, but, for example, at one point, you’re tasked with collecting four designs, but three of them require nothing more than walking into a room to get them while the other has a decent puzzle to it. It was just out of place why the other three didn’t have puzzles or why only one did.

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Throughout the campaign, there are moments of surreal elements of storytelling that are tough to understand. These happened to be what truly interested me in Norah’s resolve because her connection to this island is much bigger than her and her husband. If you were expecting a simple rescue mission, well, you’d be wrong because things get weird.

One element that I felt needed work were the transitions between chapters. It seems Call of the Sea loves to transport you from one place to the other without any real connection to the previous area. Most of the time, Norah is in one place, passes out, and wakes up in a new site. This only hurt my sense of direction and confused my understanding of the events transpired before Norah got to the island.

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Music is used interestingly in Call of the Sea. It plays a more subtle role in the adventure, as the developer chose to use more environmental sounds to immerse the player. This caused the moments where music was used to stand out prominently and significantly impact my enjoyment.

I should also stress the voice actor Cissy Jones completely nails the performance of Norah. It’s such an enormous task to carry an entire campaign of the game where you’re essentially talking to yourself, but she does it expertly. The range of emotion displayed in dialogue through moments of stress, humility, and curiosity just complimented the overall experience.

Graphically, Call of the Sea knocks visuals out of the park. The developer seemed to understand how to create a beautiful and thriving world, even on an indie budget. There’s just so much sufficient detail in the environments and finely placed set pieces that aim to tell a story as much as the notes you discover. I found the use of light also to be a great touch on guiding the player.

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Call of the Sea is a puzzle adventure that should be played by all fans of the genre. Its writing and environments are strikingly immersive as the player and Norah find themselves traveling deeper down this rabbit hole of mystery. There are moments of confusion in its design, but all the tools are present to explore this beautifully charming adventure; my only wish is that it was longer.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.