Wide Ocean Big Jacket (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Athanasios 21.02.2020

Review for Wide Ocean Big Jacket on Nintendo Switch

No research has been done on the following statement, but here it is: there aren't exactly many video games about camping. Even if there were more, they would probably follow the sim, or party game route, providing a set of mechanics, as well as a purpose. Wide Ocean Big Jacket isn't like that, and yet it manages to be the best camping title ever made, exactly because it doesn't focus on camping activities, and instead just lets you... well, chill out with a bunch of people. Developed by Turnfollow, and published by Tender Claws, here's why you should give this very... "indie" indie a go, although it's definitely a tough recommendation.

This is a simple tale of a family who goes out in the woods to relax and have fun; a tale that will last an in-game day and night. These people will unpack, roast some hot doggies, drink, have a smoke, walk around and enjoy the view, sleep, and maybe even cuddle a bit. The next day they will wake up, pack their stuff, get in their car, and leave - and that's basically Wide Ocean Big Jacket in a nutshell. A short interactive story, about a group of people on vacation. It will last about one and a half hour, and during this tiny duration, you won't exactly do much.

Video games are usually about kicking ass, and chewing bubblegum. Well, this is out of bubblegum, as well as ass. It's like a visual novel, but one that you have direct control over the movement of the characters, with the most epic thing on offer being you carrying your tend to the appropriate spot, and setting it with the quick push of a button. The rest of the experience is about bird watching, beach chilling, and campfire staring. You'll take a stroll next to a stream, enjoy the mountain view, hold hands with your significant other, and at the end of the day catch a few winks.

Screenshot for Wide Ocean Big Jacket on Nintendo Switch

Boring? Oh, if something more "traditional" was expected, yes, this definitely isn't for you. Each scene basically has you doing a certain chore (walk to the table, grab hotdogs, walk to the fire, push 'A') and engaging in some light discourse, where the whole screen goes black, and you only see an icon representing the talking character, with white text underneath. You read what these people have to say... and that's basically it - and for some strange reason, it will be hard not to like what's on offer, mainly because of how this is actually a thinly veiled coming-of-age (and then some) story that delves with some very human emotions.

Initially, the pleasure of playing this comes from the low-key comedy at hand, which helps giving each member of the cast its character; the quirky humour of the overly energetic, 13-year-old Mord, the shy ways of Ben, her neurotic boyfriend, the laidback, absentminded attitude of uncle Brad, and, finally, the best-company-is-my-own style of aunt Cloanne. It's a likable bunch, whose behaviour makes them feel like actual people, rather than actors who play a specific role, and hit you in the head with their particular traits. The thing that makes this far out group even more "real" and relatable, though, is how this short trek has them speaking about some personal matters.

Screenshot for Wide Ocean Big Jacket on Nintendo Switch

This is mainly about two young teens experiencing a romantic relationship for the first time, and trying to figure out what it all means, mostly by asking the grownups about it; grownups who act realistically, meaning that, unlike movie and comic book adults, who tend to walk around with the latest issue of Wise Quotes for Parent Figures, they don't always know how to answer the questions posed. It also helps how, since Brad and Cloanne aren't these kids' parents, they try to balance being just two people who hang out with some younger people, and caring adults that try to help.

It's also nice how the married couple, no doubt influenced by the great time they are having with the youngsters, start to have doubts about their decision to not have kids - and yet, whereas in any other narrative-driven title this would lead to forced turmoil, this is handled quickly and elegantly. Brad speaks his thoughts, Cloanne respectfully explains why she disagrees, Brad, understands her feelings, and they conclude their chat by walking back to the campsite while holding hands - a very sweet, human moment, without any unnecessary hyperboles and forced melodrama.

Screenshot for Wide Ocean Big Jacket on Nintendo Switch

That's the thing about Wide Ocean Big Jacket. It's subtle, and doesn't go too deep in the issues explored. This could be viewed as a flaw, but the fact that the few serious moments never get too serious is actually a blessing. After all, this is all about relaxation. If you just do what you "need" to do, you won't have fun. If you stop to smell the flowers, you'll do. When you get to the beach nearby, for example, don't leave immediately, simply because "there isn't anything to do." Stay there a while, look at the moon, and listen to the waves. Of course, immersion has a lot to do with the audio-visuals. Can this really engross you into its world with such primitive a graphic style?

There's room for improvement, like a stronger contrast between colours, and a more scene-enhancing lighting system, yet the LEGO look actually does wonders here, and goes hand to hand with the minimalistic approach to sound. In conclusion, it's now clear who should and who shouldn't play this. Wide Ocean Big Jacket is a unique piece of software that's aimed at a very, very specific kind of gamer. As for this critic, he actually felt sad when this wrapped up, and the team entered the car to go back home. In the end, however, the small duration and zero replay value, means that the current price is not the most reasonable one. This definitely needs a discount.

Screenshot for Wide Ocean Big Jacket on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

From a gameplay standpoint, Wide Ocean Big Jacket is an extremely simple game - with 'game' put between the biggest quote marks imaginable. As an experience, though, this is something else entirely. Turnfollow's tiny adventure is basically a funny, and occasionally very sweet, slice-of-life tale of four people enjoying themselves in the woods, while also dealing with some serious matters, but not in a very serious way. It's not a narrative-driven game. It is vacation in video game form - and only the good parts are included.




Tender Claws





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

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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