Would you do anything that you could to save a sick loved one? The answer for one of the main characters in Call of the Sea is a definitive yes.
Call of the Sea comes from indie developer Out of the Blue – and this indie game certainly comes out of the blue. Its debut came at the Inside Xbox event back in the spring, and it looked quite promising. Despite looking awful on Xbox One, it still runs fine. Having played both versions, I’d highly recommend experiencing this on Xbox Series X though.
A voyage to the South Pacific
You play as Norah, a woman afflicted with a strange disease who goes on an expedition to a far-flung South Pacific island to find her missing husband. What she finds is an abandoned island but one with numerous clues and mysteries to solve in her desperate search for her beloved.
Call of the Sea takes place in the early 1930s. The story is told through Norah talking to herself like a crazy person, listening to recordings that you find as well as reading diary entries and letters. Norah is a fairly sympathetic character, even if she does get annoying at times.
The game is basically a mix of reading, puzzle-solving, and adventuring. The island is supposed to be a lush paradise with remnants of a lost civilization, but it is a hobbled a bit with graphics that look far short of what a next-gen title should look like. That’s not to say it is ugly on Xbox Series X, but it is hardly awe-inspiring.
The ancient architecture in the game makes up for it somewhat. The inspiration here is supposed to be Polynesian, but you could mistake it for Mesoamerican. I do get the sense of being on a remote island, although the lack of overgrowth somewhat undermines the illusion.
A first-person adventure
While Call of the Sea is not a free-roaming adventure, it does feel more open than classic point-and-click adventure games. The entire game takes place in first-person; you control Norah with the left analog stick and the camera with the right.
Outside of the story, the bulk of Call of the Sea is Norah walking around, looking at objects, and trying to solve puzzles. There is no combat to speak of, which is completely fine with me. The puzzles often help connect with and drive the narrative since your husband’s previous expedition leaves behind clues for you to uncover.
The puzzles are fairly clever, and only one of them stumped me. For the most part, if you use logic and the information from the diary entries, you have all that you need. It’s important to make sure that you thoroughly comb through each area to get a complete collection of clues. Some may find this tedious, but blending the clues with the story elements makes it more interesting.
All told, you can complete Call of the Sea in roughly four hours. You can beat in a single night, but it also doesn’t feel like the developers tried to artificially stretch it out. So I appreciate that quite a bit. Since this is free with Xbox Game Pass, I don’t mind the short length. If it were $60, then we’d have an issue since there isn’t really any replay value.
Part adventure game, part puzzle game, part love story, Call of the Sea stands out as one of the more unique games of the year. It’s also unquestionably one of the best launch titles on Xbox Series X and S.