It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. Whether it was a plane crash or a shipwreck, you’re stuck on a deserted island out in the middle of the ocean now. That’s the idea behind the sandbox survival-craft game Under the Ocean by developer Near Enough Games.
The game is a side-scrolling game with 3d characters, background, and map movement, which is why I didn’t just say it was a 2d game. It is a sequel to Under the Garden by Paul Greasley which was a similar style game, but with pixel graphics, and…well, honestly I don’t know.
Both Under the Ocean and Under the Garden are extremely difficult to…well, not get into, but to progress beyond basic movement and interaction. There is a lot to do in both games and in neither was I able to progress past eating coconuts and building a workbench. Partially has to do with my own stupidity, and partially to do with a lack of instruction, somewhat. Under the Ocean does tell you to find cover when it rains, and to find food and eat, and also tells you how to craft various things with the in game journal. What to do with the thingamabobs you create are left up to your imagination.
Well, each item does have a tool tip telling you things like, how to use it, what it is, and how damaged it is. Some things though are clearer than others. For example, the Crude Stone Axe tells to you click to equip, and the Coconut tells you to right click to eat. After you right click, a little ball shows up on your character’s (lack of a) face that says “eat”, so you drag the coconut to your face and eat it. Quick and easy. What isn’t quick and easy however is something like chicken. The tool tip for that says to rip it apart, but I have yet to figure out how to do that.
When you start the game you have 3 options to play. Base game, which is supposed to be the story mode if I understood it right. Free Build, which is as described, a mode where a bunch of random crap spawns in that you can play with and attach. Great for builders. Then there is random mode, my current home. The islands and pathways are randomly generated, as is what appears on them.
The game is in development, so what I say now might not be true a few months down the line, so just keep that in mind.
Starting with the UI, you have 4 icons on the left. From left to right they are the journal, the “construction screen” the tool belt(for basic crafting) and the map. When you click on the icons, except the construction screen, something will pop up. For the journal it is a book that holds the menu, the recipes, and events that happened in your day. For the tool belt, the crafting screen will come up, and for the map tube, the map will come out. It all looks really slick, even at this early stage.
On the right is your status effects. Little bars, which nice little art renditions of the malady in a circle next to them. From wounds, to hunger and thirst, as well as effects like cold, heat and pain. At the moment they don’t seem to affect the actual control or movement of the character, and I haven’t researched enough into the game to learn if it is planned or not.
The crafting is different to say the least. Put the required objects in the crafting window and click on what you want done with them. Simple, effective, maybe not so different. The main reason it feels different is the way items and objects are handled in the world.
The inventory is very odd. It is a bar at the top of the screen, that you fill with objects you click and drag from the game world. The objects don’t seem to scale down while in the inventory, and other than cluttering it up with stuff, I haven’t seen some kind of upper limit on it. The system is a bit finicky at the moment, and sometime it can be difficult to put an item in your inventory, or take it out. From what I’ve seen posted by the developers it is a leftover system from the game’s earlier days, and should be changed eventually. Don’t quote me on that though.
The music is one of the highlights. Its soundtrack at the current time is amazing. Peaceful, but with a hint of wonder. Really fits the theme of exploring a deserted island.
The game is in its infancy, but if you enjoy exploring a game world, survival games, crafting systems, side-scrollers, or any combination of such, Under the Ocean should be a game on your watch list.
You can find the game on steam, though I recommend getting it here.
Also, try Under the Garden.
[This was written during build Alpha 6 Update 2]