In Other Waters (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 08.04.2020

Review for In Other Waters on Nintendo Switch

Action and violence are so ingrained in the medium, it's hard not to take notice of the video games that deliberately avoid getting their hands dirty. Of course, there are dozens of titles every year that don't feature action of any kind, but there's a difference between inherently being non-violent, and consciously avoiding violence. In Other Waters doesn't indulge in action, or most basic game design conventions. Almost exclusively text based, with an incredibly minimalistic design, this actually winds up one of the most mesmerising games on the Switch's eShop.

Stranded on a deserted planet with only a diving suit and the player controlled AI to her name, Ellery Vas makes for a rather interesting protagonist. As the AI, there's not much players can do other than guide Ellery and answer basic 'yes' or 'no' questions. Ellery, on the other hand, slowly reveals more of her personality over the course of the story - while also observing Gliese 677Cc's harsh reality.

It's important to keep in mind that while the visuals are minimalistic (to the point of multiple different "things" sharing the same icon), Ellery's flavour text does wonders in giving Gliese 677Cc a true sense of scope. Ellery's AI suit can be used to scan her surroundings - each new scan offering a different observation as Ellery pieces together her environment. Scan enough of the same object, and Ellery will start renaming, classifying, and deeply analysing anything scanned.

Screenshot for In Other Waters on Nintendo Switch

Naturally, so much analysis calls for a tight script, and developer Jump Over The Age has done an excellent job at providing quite a well written story. Ellery's sense of wonder is clear, as is her sense of horror as she descends deeper into the depths of Gliese 677Cc. Her conversations with the AI aren't conversations at all, but opportunities for players to meditate on what Ellery has to say. Her yes/no questions aren't meant to be branching paths, but moments to consider the nature of life.

One of the core themes at the centre of the script is the difference between "natural" and "artificial" life. In Other Waters places audiences in a rather creative position: do players embrace the role of the "stereotypical" AI and refrain from answering emotionally, or do players seize the opportunity for human emotion and connection despite playing an AI? It's an interesting conversation, and the relationship between Ellery and the player is thematically quite important to Ellery's tangible journey.

Screenshot for In Other Waters on Nintendo Switch

Although Ellery herself isn't controlled, players do guide her via the AI. Before Ellery can move, however, she has to scan her environment for any landmarks or features she can walk to. During the scan phase, the AI can fully scan defined objects on-screen by keeping them in its sight. This is simple enough for stationary fixtures, but organisms and other creatures require following them with the analogue stick, and keeping them locked for a few seconds. It's not too much work, nor is it particularly difficult, but it adds a little bit of spice to an otherwise fairly relaxed gameplay loop.

Once Ellery has noted any fixtures, the AI can then guide her to them, each new location generally featuring more organisms and landmarks to scan. When it comes down to it, though, it's critical to take one's time and soak up everything Gliese 677Cc has to offer. Rushing from landmark to landmark, scanning everything in sight without taking the time to read everything Ellery has to say, it ultimately going to result in a bad, if incomprehensible, time. Patience is very much key with this time.

Screenshot for In Other Waters on Nintendo Switch

…As are headphones. What In Other Waters may lack in art design and overall presentation, it more than makes up for in sound design. The ambient noise, the music, and the sound effects are paired fantastically together, really giving the impression that Ellery is truly in alien waters. While there's nothing particularly hostile about the planet, the sound direction creates a creepy tone that does the atmosphere wonders.

The minimalist art direction frankly isn't even a problem. If anything, it ends up leaving just enough room to the imagination where audiences always have enough information to paint a picture in their head of Ellery's surroundings. At times, it's almost like reading a novel with a map. Gameplay does get more involved than just moving and scanning; Ellery can dive deeper into the ocean, observe her notes, etc. but the core of In Other Waters really is in its story, and in the act of exploration.

Screenshot for In Other Waters on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Looks can be deceiving, and while In Other Waters does look too simple for its own good, it's a title overflowing with depth. Between a well written script, intensely atmospheric sound design that begs for headphone use, and methodically slow pacing, it's hard not to think of Ellery Vas' expedition through the depths of Gliese 677Cc long after all is said and done. Moody and sombre, In Other Waters is a must read… and must play.

Developer

Jump Over The Age

Publisher

Fellow Traveller

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
hinchjoie, juzzy, mikem52, Renan

There are 4 members online at the moment.