Call of the Sea (PC) Review

By Athanasios 30.07.2021

Review for Call of the Sea on PC

Call of the Sea sends you on a sunny beach (well, not you exactly), in order to find the husband of the main heroine, who seems to be on the trail of the cure for the mysterious disease that ails her. In the process of doing so, discovers the dark, hidden (sort of) mystery of the island, as well as her own bloodline. With some - not so subtle - Lovecraftian undertones, stunning visuals, and plenty of puzzles, can this first-person adventure compete with the big ones of the genre, such as Obduction and Firewatch, or classics like Riven? The answer is simple: throdog r'luhhor ai mg!

It's the '30s. Norah, a young woman who is hiding a weird disease under her gloves, is aboard a ship heading towards a mysterious island somewhere on the Polynesian archipelago. She is following her husband's expedition to find a cure for her problem; a problem which has her frequently seeing ominous dreams (visions?), which seem to always be connected to the sea… and some other strange things. As she starts exploring the island, she finds more clues that point to the markings on her arms, and the dark history behind them. She finds out that there's more here than just ancient temples, and she discovers photos and notes left by her hubby that show his team slowly getting more and more violent the deeper they get into the secrets of this strange land.

Screenshot for Call of the Sea on PC

…Okay, there's no reason beating around the bush. Call of the Sea is far from subtle with its inspirations, that it would be silly to try and avoid "spoiling" it all. This is influenced by Lovecraftian mythology, and, sadly, those who are somewhat knowledgeable of Lovecraft's body of work (aka, have read just one book) will be able to tell what is going on here, before the first chapter even concludes. In fact, all that's left to discover here are the small details surrounding the main idea behind it all. On the other hand, those who don't know anything regarding The Great Old ones, and the… fishy stuff that going on when they are around, will probably enjoy what is on offer here. Probably.

Why probably? Well, it turns out that Norah is Exposition with Legs. The voice actress does a decent job, but the direction is very, very bad. Apart from her never shutting her hole, and letting players experience her awe, instead of listening to her explaining her awe, she feels totally out of place with what is going on here. She acts as if she is paying a visit to a Polynesian museum, with her sudden mood changes failing to immerse you into her shoes. At one time she is reading her husband's note concerning the murder of one of his men from a member of the team, then she cheerfully comments on a funny painting of his. Black mutating ooze? Ancient machinery that's strangely advanced? Visions getting even more bizarre and menacing? Norah will make sure to destroy any sense of danger, fear, or dread with her constant commenting on things.

Screenshot for Call of the Sea on PC

Putting the narrative weaknesses of Call of the Sea aside, the gameplay seems to be the saving grace of the game, even if it's not perfect itself. Basically an array of puzzles, this has the heroine exploring a series of chapters, taking down notes of symbols, numbers, drawings, and so on, and using said notes to, say, open an ancient door, before moving onto the next obstacle on offer. It's important to remember that, unlike a game like Myst, the protagonist is the one that is taking all the notes here - not you. Everything a player needs to solve a puzzle will be written there, and if it's not, then you simply need to explore some more to find the required hints. Unfortunately, while casual puzzle-solver will find this to be a blessing, this turns to be a bit of a double-edged sword.

Screenshot for Call of the Sea on PC

First of all, Norah's notebook makes the puzzles way easier than they should be. They are not Hidden Object-style easy, but they are easy nonetheless. Secondly, it's all a matter of finding all the required clues, and this means that, most of the time at least, figuring out the solution to a puzzle is less about clever deduction, or about thinking outside the box, but about understanding how those clues have to be used. Now, to be fair, despite the low difficulty, there are plenty of puzzles here that are fun to solve, as they require from players to actually think - it's just that that many others basically "explain" what to do through Norah's notes. The puzzles also tend to feel kind of samey right after the middle of the journey, and since the "mystery" at hand isn't really that exciting, there's little incentive to keep playing.

It should also be mentioned that there's lots of slow, slow, slow walking involved here. This isn't exactly a walking simulator, but it does feel like one occasionally, as each chapter is… frighteningly non-linear; throwing you into an area, with you being able to explore 90% of it, which translates to you - very - slowly going from POI to POI, simply noting down what can be noted down, before fiddling with the ancient, and totally not alien piece of technology next to the exit. What saves the day is how beautiful this is. Call of the Sea's ultra-bright and colourful palette might feel a weird choice for a Lovecrafian tale, yet there's no denying that, from the simple waterfalls or forests in the beginning of this adventure, to the imposing, rainswept ancient ruins and dark caverns hidden deep into the island, this is a definite stunner - and a bit of a system hog, to be perfectly honest.

Screenshot for Call of the Sea on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Call of the Sea can be described as: a forgettable adventure, sprinkled with fun, but easy puzzles. The exposition-heavy "narration" of the main heroine ruins the atmosphere of this journey, which isn't that strong to begin with, especially for a story dealing with eldritch terrors from beyond. The only reason to play this are the puzzles, although they too fail to keep you invested, as you won't really care about reaching the end, especially if a fan of Lovecraft, which will instantly turn the plot into an extremely predictable one. It has its moments, sure, and the visuals are beautiful, but this is generally a mediocre experience.

Developer

Out of the Blue

Publisher

Raw Fury

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

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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