STAFF REVIEW of Call of the Sea (Xbox One)


Monday, January 25, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Call of the Sea Box art If you told me that Call of the Sea was the first game from studio Out of the Blue, I’m not sure I would have believed you if I didn’t do the research beforehand. For a debut game and a small indie studio, Call of the Sea impresses in a number of ways. Set in the 1930’s, this first person adventure is filled with an engrossing story about love and mystery, set on an island in the South Pacific with heavy Polynesian influences. A story focused affair filled with puzzles, you play Norah, a woman searching for her husband on a mysterious island, full of surprises and unknown.

Norah’s husband, Harry, went on an expedition but has since gone missing, so she has set sail to go find out where he is and what has happened. She is sent a package from someone unknown, filled with a picture of her husband and a peculiar looking ritualistic knife. Norah has a unique illness and incredibly rare condition, causing marks to form on her skin and the source of her pain and nightmares, seemingly visions at times.


Left to her own devices on this mysterious island, she quickly learns that even the locals are deathly afraid of this place. As you search the island you’ll come across remnants of Harry’s camp and expedition along the way. He originally came to this island to find a cure for Norah, but what you know to be the truth in the beginning is vastly different from what occurs near its conclusion. Furthermore to add to the mystery, it seems the island you’re on matches what she envisions in her dreams. Following Harry’s trail, you’ll slowly unravel what events took place via photographs, notes, recordings and more.

The writing is done quite well, and given that Norah is voiced by the one and only Cissy Jones (Darksiders III, The Walking Dead Telltale Series), you end up caring not only for Norah and her condition, but and the relationship with Harry as well. The more I uncovered, the more I wanted to know and figure out what exactly happened to Harry. I wasn’t prepared for the ending I got, of which there are two different ones, and I won’t spoil anything, but it wasn’t exactly what I initially thought was going to be the outcome I had guessed.

As you begin your adventure on this mysterious island, you’ll be taken back by its sheer beauty. Again, simply looking at Call of the Sea, you would never guess that it was made by a small team and their first game, but it impresses with its colorful and bright visuals of densely packed forest, filled with pathways and secrets. You won’t know where to even begin looking for Harry, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for clues. Usually these come in the form of notes and photographs left behind at camps along the way, but why were there so many, and why do they seem they were abandoned so quickly?


This means you’ll need to investigate everything you can interact with. Most clues can be rotated, sometimes holding another clue on the backside of a picture or note. Anything that seems very important, Norah will jot it down in her journal, able to be referenced later and almost like a clue system to tell you what you need to be looking for. These notes and clues will be what you use to solve the puzzles laid out in front of you. Most of the time you’ll be unable to progress without solving some elaborate native puzzle of some sorts, so you’ll need a keen eye and sharp mind to crack the codes.

Thankfully you won’t have to worry about any inventory management or combining objects together, you’ll simply use them if they are appropriate for what you’re interacting with. As for the puzzles themselves, the smaller ones are quick and simple to figure out without much work, but before moving into a new area and chapter you’ll generally have to solve a much more elaborate and involved puzzle, usually in multiple steps and stages. The puzzles themselves are quite clever and varied, eventually giving quite a challenge in the last two chapters. I’d liked to say that I was able to breeze through each puzzle laid before me without any assistance, but I did have to refer to a guide for two of the more intricate ones at the end when I became perplexed on how to proceed when brute force didn't work.

There’s no combat whatsoever to speak of, thankfully, and also no real timed puzzles where you need to be quick. This makes for a much more relaxed experience, able to take in the setting and environment much more than I normally would in a puzzle focused game. With six chapters to get through, it should take you anywhere from 6-10 hours or so, depending on your puzzle solving abilities, though Norah tends to walk quite slowly, even when ‘running’, and there’s usually a bit of backtracking, adding to the playtime.


The narrative is done excellently, slowly drip feeding you just enough information to stay interesting yet always hinting at what could come next. The only time the pacing of the campaign is slowed down is when you’re stuck on a certain puzzle for an hour at a time and become frustrated. The voice acting is done to perfection and the background ambiance and soundtrack is very fitting for a 1930’s adventure. Visually, Call of the Sea really impresses with its lush forests and island setting. The color pallet is bright and varied, differing based on what area you’re in on the island and what type of puzzle you’re currently working on solving. Again, for a small studio, it’s beyond impressive.

My only real complaint is that there’s very little replay value outside of getting the second ending (though it’s just a final choice you make, so you could just play the final chapter again), searching for hidden collectables and cleaning up missing achievements. The setting and narrative are fantastic and it’s an adventure I’m glad to have been a part of. You can tell that Call of the Sea was made with much care and love as it’s one of those games that simply has a lot of character and heart.

**Call of the Sea was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**




Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10

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