Beyond Blue is a budget title from E-Line Media that fits in an incredibly niche and under-represented genre. The most recent game in the genre I can think of that made it out of the Asian market was Endless Ocean: Blue World for the Nintendo Wii back in February 2010. To be fair, even referring to it as a game is a bit misleading. While you do control the main character, Mirai, and you have objectives to complete, you can’t fail and you’re never in any danger. This is closer to a documentary that puts you in control of the camera.
You can probably tell from that description whether or not Beyond Blue is for you. If you’re looking for something akin to Subnautica then you’ll come away from here disappointed. Conversely, if you want something more like Abzu, but with a bit more freedom, then this will be right up your alley. The story here is that Mirai is tracking a pod of sperm whales, and she’s live-streaming her efforts. The latter aspect worried me when I read about it, but it turns out it’s really just a device to let Mirai and her fellow scientists talk about things they already know for our sake. The story is further padded with some small sub-plots, all of which resolve themselves without Mirai needing to do anything. You do get some response choices at times, but they have no impact on how the story plays out.
The gameplay of Beyond Blue could best be described as zen-like swimming. There’s no hurry to do anything, and there’s no sense of danger from the creatures. While objective markers are provided there are no timers attached, and you can explore to your heart’s content. That said, the game does throw you into deep and dark waters, and even knowing that nothing in the game will hurt you, our ingrained fear of the open ocean kicks in regularly. I got goosebumps more than a few times swimming in the open ocean, and even managed to jump scare myself when a shark drifted over my head unexpectedly.
Not everything is perfect in the depths of Beyond Blue, however. Even during the story’s short runtime — it took me about three hours despite taking time to stop and smell the coral — I encountered a few hitches. The most notable two for me occurred late in the game, but smaller ones also cropped up here and there. The first was Mirai referencing a fight she “just had” with her college-bound sister before the dive, except it never happened. Either I missed the trigger to get that conversation or it was in an earlier draft of the script and they forgot to modify it, but either way I was left scratching my head. More annoyingly in a subsequent dive I completed the assigned objectives, but no further guidance was provided. I eventually stumbled upon the next objective, and then the next and the next after that, but without any notices. And I don’t mean that there just wasn’t a way point marker to follow; I had literally zero guidance on what my next step was in any form.
Beyond Blue Review Final Thoughts:
The appeal of Beyond Blue is in exploring the seas from the safety of your own home, and charting your own BBC documentary. In that respect this game is a near-total success. I say “near-total” because it does have a few annoying bugs and oversights in a few places, and also because the underwater world isn’t quite as populated as it could be. The aforementioned Endless Ocean: Blue World on the Wii had just over 350 marine creatures to discover, but Beyond Blue only has a couple dozen or so. Part of the appeal of the deep blue is just how much life teems down there, and I wish the game had showcased that better.
Overall Beyond Blue is an excellent entry as a budget-priced game for people who want to explore the open ocean without the dangers and costs associated with it. The story, while short, is well voice-acted and does hit some surprisingly emotional beats at points. If you’re looking for a decently priced game to while away an afternoon then Beyond Blue is a good bet.
Beyond Blue on XBO
- Plenty to explore and find in several biomes.
- Story is short, but effective.
- Solid graphics and sound design.
- Loading times are significant, though spaced out.
- Number of species to catalog is surprisingly small.
- Very niche, and with little replay value.