Sea of Solitude: The Director's Cut (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Athanasios 23.05.2021

Review for Sea of Solitude: The Director

It's a good thing that video games have evolved to be something more than simple entertainment. Alongside titles where all you do is blast enemies with big guns, or kick buttocks (usually sexy buttocks) with your flashy Kung Fu, one can also enjoy stories that try to say something about the human condition. Sea of Solitude, the creation of German indie dev Jo-Mei games, offers one such journey into the soul, delving with subjects like loneliness and depression, but, sadly, like so many of its kind, it fails to be as intriguing as it is honest and courageous with its confessions. The following is a look at the Nintendo Switch port, which is an updated version, with reworked cut-scenes, script, and voice-acting.

Kay is a pitch-black feathered monster girl with red, glowing eyes, who seems to be lost in a sea that has covered a whole city, and probably the whole world. She uses her boat to travel this bizarre, yet beautiful place, occasionally walking on top of buildings that haven't been totally submerged, trying to understand how she got there. She is not alone, though. Bigger, scarier, and far more monstrous versions of herself are out to get her. Whenever Kay steps into the sea, a giant shark-like beast will try to eat her; an enormous lady/hermit crab that looks like the cartoonish version of the stereotypical scary girl of Japanese horror movies will occasionally block her way; and a titanic black vulture will constantly try to avoid her.

Screenshot for Sea of Solitude: The Director's Cut on Nintendo Switch

If you are wondering what these are, the answer is simple: they are stand-ins for her family members. Allegorical manifestations of her emotions towards them, as well as characters that are there to give her trouble, but also help her realize some things about herself. With its central subject being depression, loneliness, and estrangement, Kay's interaction with these creatures is basically an attempt for her to understand her loved ones, and of course her place among them. The giant bird, for instance, is actually Kay's younger brother, who struggled with bullying, while her real-life self was busy texting her boyfriend, not paying attention to his pain.

It soon becomes painfully clear that this is a very personal game for its creative director. She is offering players a piece of her soul. She essentially lets you peer into her diary. Sadly, as genuine and well-meaning that act is, it doesn't manage to provide a compelling, emotive narrative. It will be hard to feel anything here. The writing is superficial and lucking subtlety, with no build up whatsoever. That's not to say that this can't be touching at times, but more often than not, players will be told what to feel, but they will rarely be led to do so organically. 'Preachy' might also be too severe a description, but at the same time it is quite close.

Screenshot for Sea of Solitude: The Director's Cut on Nintendo Switch

At the end of the day, the biggest problem is the bland game that's attached to it all, which not only doesn't go hand to hand with what it tries to convey, but it's also a total bore; an array of chores, filler between cut-scene #1, and cut-scene #2 and beyond. More specifically, Kay has to reach certain checkpoints that will push the story forward - an affair that's far from challenging or entertaining. It's one more case of a video game where you are simply going through the motions, with little to no thought process required. Usually it's all about throwing out a shiny flare, and following it to reach the next point of interest.

Some examples of what needs to be done? Kay will need to quickly swim from point A to B, being mindful about the position of the shark-monster that relentlessly hunts her down, or "clear corruption" simply by walking up to a glowing object, and pushing a button. Oh, no! Her brother's bullies have manifested as shadowy beings that try to hurt Kay? Just lead them in specific spots, shoot a flare on a light source, and they will dissolve. This is full of this type of things, and the whole ordeal is so tedious that despite this requiring about three hours to end, many won't find the will to keep on playing after the first chapter.

Screenshot for Sea of Solitude: The Director's Cut on Nintendo Switch

Rude and inconsiderate as that might sound, this is sadly one more "artsy" title, where everything "means stuff," and exactly because of that, it is a product that most professional reviewers have a hard time admitting they don't like. It's something that, like many of its ilk, was "made" to win an award or two, despite it being very weak in the thing that it's supposed to be great at… and it's also something that just isn't a good game. It's intentions are noble, and it's far from pretentious *cough*Where the Water Tastes Like Wine*cough* but sadly it's not Silent Hill 2 either, which, in this reviewer's not so humble opinion, is the epitome of high-art-in-video-game-form.

As for this, Switch exclusive, Director's Cut, since this critic hasn't played the original, no comments can be made about the differences, apart from the fact that it adds a Photo Mode, and gyro-scoping support, has a reworked script, plus new voice actors. Regarding the latter, after a look at some online play-throughs, yours truly can definitely say that he prefers the more amateurish, original cast, German accent and all, which sounded less generic, and as such, more realistic, if that makes any sense. Oh, and note that this beautiful game (because it is beautiful) is less so on Switch, as it is a bit murkier than how it looks on other more powerful systems.

Screenshot for Sea of Solitude: The Director's Cut on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

A heartfelt confession, but an otherwise boring experience, Sea of Solitude fails both as a game, as well as an exploration of mental health. At times too symbolic and abstract to decode, and at other times very straightforward with its message, most will find it hard to feel the struggles of its cute, feathery protagonist and connect with her. This is basically like reading the diary of a high school kid. What is said within its pages is true and all, but that doesn't make it a good read. Even worse? The simplistic platforming/exploring/puzzle-solving that needs to be done here can even put an elephant to sleep.

Developer

Jo-Mei

Publisher

QUANTIC DREAM

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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