Anodyne was a marvelous game that told a mysterious, surreal tale as players explored its dream-like world, fighting danger with a broom as haunting music set an eerie mood. It was a thematically-rich game whose story and locales hid many secrets, and as soon as I was finished it, I wanted more from its two developers, Sean HTCH and Joni Kittaka. Luckily, they set straight to work on Even the Ocean, a game about finding balance as a power plant repair worker. It sounds simple, but knowing what these two developers are capable of, it will be anything but straightforward.
Aliph has work to do to repair the power plants in a sprawling world. She has to get to them first, though, which involves long walks through the natural countryside, the game shifting from farmlands bathed in fallen Autumn leaves to the winding mechanical corridors of the plants themselves. On the way, there will be many characters to meet, each with their own backstories and needs, only waiting for a mindful player to take the time to listen. The developers worked hard to make the world of Even the Ocean feel like an actual place filled with actual people, striving for realism in the lay of the land and in the personalities of the people living within it.
Balance is key in all things in Even the Ocean – especially when it comes to gameplay. Aliph has a life/power bar, but it works differently than one might expect. The bar has a purple side and a green side, and instead of taking damage, interacting with items in the environment, purposefully or not, charges the bar in one direction or the other. Charge it too much in either direction and you die. However, charging it one way or another changes your movement, which you need to do in order to move through the game’s puzzles. A high purple charge gives you lower jumps but faster walking speeds, but a high green charge will slow you down while giving you a higher jump. The game’s complexities come from observing your environments, learning how you need to move to progress, and then how to charge your bar to be able to do that.
Even the Ocean is nearing the end of its development, and is looking at a late Summer/early Fall release. When it’s done, players will soon find there is more to Aliph’s story than just going around fixing power plants as the people and places start to tie into each other. What does balance mean to this world of machines and natural life?