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  • John Bush

Game Review #496: In Other Waters (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B Developer: Jump Over The Age

Publisher: Fellow Traveler

Category: Adventure

Release Date: 4.3.2020

Price: $14.99

Watch the Trailer

Buy In Other Waters from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

The best thing you can say about a game is that it taught you to think about what a game can be in a new (good) way. In Other Waters for the Nintendo Switch taught me to think about what a game can be in a new (good) way. It has a unique method for movement, an original premise for its puzzle mechanics, and a pure dedication to exploration that few games can match. That’s not to say that it isn’t without its issues, but experiments don’t always yield the results you’d expect. Once in a while, though, if you’re very lucky, you come across an experiment that yields something you never knew how much you’d want.

Vas Oceans of Truth Lie Undiscovered Before Me

In the far-flung future, mankind has spread out to the stars and beyond. Ellery Vas is a biologist following a message left for her by her long-lost colleague. She travels to a water on the edges of space, long since written off as useless by the governing body of whoever she works for. When she arrives, she finds a planet teeming with aquatic life – which the planet’s reports never mentioned – and one dive suit with a mysterious AI controller that is unlike any she has ever used before. That is you – you are the dive suit AI. Ellery relies upon your help to control her suit and keep her alive as she searches for clues regarding her colleague’s location, and the two build a relationship that really forms the core of the game’s story.

If Your Phone Could Talk Back

The dialogue system is fairly simple, like all of the gameplay elements of In Other Waters . Ellery will talk, and occasionally you get a chance to give her a yes or no response that will change the course of your relationship. It does not really appear to me that it causes the story to branch, but it does truly develop Ellery and emotionally invest the player into her quest. And it’s a great thing that the game does develop this relationship in such an engaging way, because while the gameplay is very interesting at first, it wears thin fairly early in the experience.

Cartography and Cataloguing

By far the bulk of In Other Waters is spent exploring the oceans in which Ellery finds herself. Movement is done along fixed routes, moving from one point to another. New points can be discovered by sending out a sonar pulse; focusing the radar on one of the pings allows Ellery to “discover” a new movement point. You also get a small description of the investigation point that highlights Ellery’s passion for discovery, which can be very infectious. Occasionally, you come across an impassable point such as a strong current, impassable rock wall, or a wall of the fungus that populates the ocean and occupies most of Ellery’s research.

To get past these obstacles, you’ll need to utilize the dive suit’s specimen collecting abilities. Specimen can be found and studied with the suit’s sonar abilities. Once you have accumulated enough data on a subject, you can begin to collect samples which you can bring back to your base for study. More usefully, though, you can carry them around with you to manipulate the terrain when you need to. The most basic ability is using certain types of spores to clear fungus from your path; you can also find spores to regrow fungus stalks, which you can utilize to change the flow of water, weakening otherwise impassable currents. It’s a cool concept; learning about an ecosystem in order to survive in said ecosystem without causing it harm is a worthy premise for motivating gameplay.

The big problem, though, is that the movement and discovery system get old after just a couple hours of gameplay. As original and fun as the game feels in the beginning, it gets equally tedious as new discoveries get farther apart. As much as I was captivated by the game’s narrative, it got harder to maintain a high level of interest as the game wore on and exploratory progress slowed way down.

I Hope You Like Aqua Blue/Green and Yellow

The very limited color palette for In Other Waters is at once a point of charm and monotony. In the early going of the game, the use of solid greens and blues to highlight the topographical maps you explore with Ellery are attractive and well-designed. Like the gameplay, though, as the game wears on the mostly-monotone game screen starts to look a little too familiar and loses a lot of its allure.

Discovery Is A Slow Process

When In Other Waters begins, it feels like a breath of fresh air. Slowly learning about the planet, its life, and its mysteries – as well as Ellery’s past – is as engaging and intriguing a start as any game I’ve played. While the storyline stays satisfying all the way through, the game’s other elements don’t do enough to keep up. The gameplay, while original and engrossing to start, gets stale as discoveries dry up, and the game’s unchanging color palette doesn’t do much to keep things feeling fresh, either. Still, In Other Waters can boast something few games can; it takes an original, unique approach to exploring a new world and telling a great story.

Score: 7/10

Buy In Other Waters from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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