Developer: Jump Over The Age
Designer: Gareth Damian Martin
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Platforms: PC (Windows and Mac), Nintendo Switch
Release Date: April 3rd, 2020
Review Date: April 9th, 2020
In Other Waters is an exploration game with a strong storyline. It has elements of a visual novel to help eventuate its story driven approach. Although with that said, if you’re into visual novels, you will definitely like this.
You play as an AI in a high-tech scuba suit. You’re responsible for Ellery Vas, a xenobiologist searching for her colleague on an alien planet. The game takes place within an ocean on Gliese 677Cc. As a xenobiologist, your job is to catalog all the freaky lifeforms you come across, but the story revolves around Ellery’s missing colleague, Minae.
Throughout the game, you’ll collect samples of various creatures, mostly plant life, and take them back to the Waystation for analyzing. This allows you to build up a much better picture of each lifeform, resulting in full documentation and sketches that unlock as you add samples.
There is a lot of detail to this game, despite the relatively simple interface. If you’re a science geek, you’ll love this, but it’s just as good if you’re not. It presents some difficult situations that you have to think your way around, so it’s fantastic for puzzle-brains.
Alien Diving 101
You navigate around the ocean by selecting a point to move towards and tapping A. You can also scan your surroundings for tidbits about the geology or biology. The more you examine a particular species, the more data you get. Once your data wheel for that species is full, Ellery (your friendly neighborhood xenobiologist) will pop up and name it.
There’s nothing challenging about the gameplay itself, but some of the routes take some thinking, and I got stuck for hours at least twice. Don’t let that put you off, though — I am notoriously bad at games where there are minimal instructions, and you’re left to your own devices to figure out what to do next.
I found playing In Other Waters incredibly soothing. It’s an excellent game for mindfulness, and if you’re finding yourself irritated or frustrated with lockdown, give this a go. It chilled me right out.
The one problem I had with this game is how slow you move. It didn’t bother me for a while, and then further in it started to frustrate me. Trying to get anywhere was agonizing.
In Other Waters, more than redeems itself with the beautiful interface, though. It’s a simple teal and yellow screen with dials and buttons, but I fell in love with it. I found it oddly beautiful. In Other Waters is pleasant on the eyes.
Music To My Ears
The music is excellent. It’s subtle and lilting. It keeps you company, especially on long stretches where you’re going round in circles, and you haven’t heard from Ellery for ages. I’d buy the soundtrack; I thought it was that good. It makes you think of the sea, and the solitude a single diver would experience. It does seem to be one track, though, but I never got bored of it. It was a beautiful background to the game, and at the same time, didn’t distract me from anything important. It matched the design and the setting well. They could maybe have included something more alien, though. It’s supposed to be an alien game after all, and the music just gave me ocean.
Thinking about it, there’s a lot the developers could have done with the music. What about a warning track, when you’re heading for danger, or different tracks for different animals that appear on your radar? This is probably way out of an indie dev’s budget, but it’s just an idea.
Another great thing about In Other Waters is that, despite revolving around a diver’s voice, everything is presented in text as well. It’s very accessible for anyone with hearing issues. It also has a record of everything Ellery said that you could refer back to if you’re the type to get lost. (Like me.)
I loved the graphics throughout the whole game, especially the interface you get while you’re diving. I also love the way your entire screen changes to warning colors, precisely like the warning signals on a submarine’s computer. I think this is brilliant and very effective. It makes the game so immersive, which is exactly what I want when you throw “alien ocean” my way.
With the interface being so simple, you’d think there wasn’t much to say for the graphics of In Other Waters, but you’d be wrong. They’re incredibly effective. You really believe the science angle of it. Someone has spent a lot of time on this game. It feels like it’s someone’s labor of love, and it shows.
Some of the text is hard to read, based on tiny font and white text on a dark background, but the way it’s done does add to the whole vibe of the game, so I don’t want to complain too much.
As for the actual ocean, the map is fantastic. You swim around over these fantastic 3D line maps, which look amazing. If you’re a map fan, you should try In Other Waters. Everything seems so genuine and geographic.
Play It Again?
Personally, I wouldn’t say there was much replayability, but I’m not a fan of replaying games. If you’re the type to go back and replay a game years later and fall in love with the story all over again, In Other Waters will give you that. If you’d only go back to find something new, I don’t think this is the right game for you to replay.
If you’re a completionist, the game does mark your progress by a percentage, and you can complete the data on all lifeforms, so all the fields are filled out, and you get sketches. I think you’d have to be really, really into the game to do this, though. I found going after the samples the computer requests extremely frustrating and tedious. Once you have everything for one species, though, you get a ton of text to read about them, and the sketches you unlock last are the only visual reference you get to the species in question. I’ll admit, I was curious, but I found this part of the game to be not that captivating. I love how it looks, the layout and things, but it doesn’t draw me in and make me want to read it.
Where Did All the People Go?
There’s no multiplayer aspect to In Other Waters, and I think this is an excellent idea. The isolation, the quiet, the stillness — this all adds to the vibe of the game, and it makes the setting come alive. If you add in multiplayer, or even lots more NPCs, I think you’d ruin it.
I guess In Other Waters is one of those games you could play with a friend, in person. You could have a lot of fun working everything out together.
Speaking of NPCs, there aren’t many at all. There’s the mysterious Minae and Ellery Vas. And yet, the game is compelling. I don’t know if it’s the story, the detail, or some combination of everything, but this game draws you in. It stands out in my mind amongst the many other video games I’ve played. I’ll always remember it. It’s quite nice to play something slower and less busy. You don’t always need multiplayer to have a good time, and since gaming as an industry still relies on paid subscriptions to get multiplayer access in the first place, it’s great to find a game that doesn’t require that of you. The game itself is only $14.99, and it’s so well made, it’s an absolute bargain for those of you on a budget.
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- THE GOOD
- Compelling storyline
- Fantastic music
- Excellent characters
- Awesome graphics and layout
- THE BAD
- Sometimes confusing
- Frustratingly slow movement
- Getting stuck for ages
A superb video game that will appeal to a broad range of people. This is a developer to watch.