Review – Beyond Blue

Calm Oceans Await

Today I’ll be covering the new and exceedingly tranquil underwater zoologist sim Beyond Blue, courtesy of developer and publisher E-Line Media. The title is currently available on Xbox, PS4 PC and Mac.

The Basics

As titles go, this one has some echoes of Endless Ocean, a Wii title released back in 2007 (we’re all going to just ignore the fact that that is now 13 years old). You’ll play as Mirai, a marine biologist live-streaming her way through the different locations.

You’ll work to track, tag and monitor oceanic wildlife, following an engaging narrative voiced by TV and film veterans. The title travels across eight unique undersea locations, and through your adventure you’ll work to catalogue a number of different species. In doing this, you’ll pull up different facts and behaviours on each, as well as 16 different documentary videos.

I’ve found Beyond Blue to be a relaxing and calming adventure. The slow pace and graceful creature animations compliment each other well, and provide an experience well suited to younger players. Working in a near future environment, you’ll use cutting edge technology to explore and investigate these undersea worlds, backed by your research team.

The creatures you’ll find on your journey through Beyond Blue are generally majestic and peaceful creatures
A Collaborative Approach

The title is not shy in making its purpose clear from the outset. Development has been a truly collaborative approach, in much a similar way as E-line’s previous title Never Alone. For Beyond Blue, E-Line partnered with BBC Studios, OceanX Media, as well as some of the world’s leading ocean experts.

While the game elements are strong here, it’s clear that a lot of focus has been put not just on letting players explore, but educating both young and old. There are 16 documentaries which can be unlocked. EAch of these includes experts in their field, discussing many different elements represented in the title.

Parent’s Eye View

Beyond Blue is rated by PEGI at 7 and above, and by the ESRB at E for Everyone. It’s another title where there’s not a lot to worry about. With minimal blood and danger, you’re able to swim around sharks, orca and jellyfish with reasonably little bother.

Fear is, however, a small element here as well in a couple of areas. Firstly, titles like this are a great way to discover if you have Thalassophobia. This irrational fear is triggered for many in situations involving the open ocean and while it’s not debilitating it’s caused a shiver to run up my back more than once. In addition to this there are also some underwater sounds which could be quite unnerving to younger players as well.

Overall, it’s one that I am happy for the Micro-Bandits to watch and play. While there are a small number of little niggles for the very young, the educational benefits which can be taken from it make it a title well suited to younger players.

While there are dangerous creatures in the game, they don’t offer much in the way of dangerous gameplay

The Run Down

Visuals – Good: For the vast majority of the time in game the visuals are absolutely on point. These underwater locations have been well crafted, and creature animations are sublime.

There are a few small items which mean that I can’t rate it as perfect here, with some small clipping issues at the forefront. One item which has bothered me probably more than it should, is the fact that the undersea torch follows the camera’s point of view, rather than the diver’s

Audio – Great: The sound in Beyond Blue has been well crafted across the board. Whale song and other animal calls are realistic and well implemented, and sound effects are well worked too.

The cast is also pretty impressive, and while not huge names the voice actors generally have a good pedigree. With work on TV and movies such as Toy Story 4, Ant Man, Black Sails and NCIS: Los Angeles, the experience shows with the quality of the in game vocals.

As well as this, there are a small number of tunes you can choose from on your submarine base. Generally atmospheric pieces, the inclusion of these while not front and centre awesome, is a nice touch.

Narrative – Great: When I first picked up Beyond Blue, I was absolutely not expecting a narrative. It was a nice surprise to find that it includes a great story, implemented with care rather than treated as an afterthoughts

Dialogue often includes different choices, and as well as the outstanding voice acting, the script writers deserve a fair chunk of credit as well. The near future story not only sounds good, but is also believable. On top of this, it also compliments the education features in the title well, giving a reason to learn more about these magnificent creatures.

Replay – Good: For the replay value here I’ve gone with good, but important to note it’s not perfect. Game tasks can become repetitive as for the most part you are following the same formula of approach, tag, and possibly investigate with the zoom scan tool. I have, however, found that the repetitive nature of the tasks lends itself well to the relaxing and calming game atmosphere.

After completing story missions you do have the option to go back and replay each of the 8 individual dive locations. Doing this can ensure that you have all of the creature scans required to fully unlock the Insights library, giving access to 16 documentary style video

The well crafted story was a real surprise, but a very welcome one
The Verdict

Overall the Pixel Bandits Oxygen Level for Beyond Blue is Grab It. Given the fairly low price point for Beyond Blue, I was pleasantly surprised with the content offered. I think this is a title perfect for younger eyes and minds. As well as having some great opportunities for education, the simple control scheme and mechanics mean that the younger generation can get fully involved.

Don’t come into this one looking for a fast moving Subnautica like title, as you’ll only be disappointed. Instead, Beyond Blue is one for those looking for a calmer experience, following a decent narrative which will bring you almost within touching distance of these beautiful locations.

Pick It Up

If Beyond Blue has tickled your gaming tastebuds, you can grab it on;

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