REVIEW: Sea of Solitude – PS4
Updated: Jun 8
Worth crossing the ocean for?
Sea of Solitude (Jo-Mei Games, 2019) was nominated in the Games for Impact category at 2019’s The Game Awards, alongside games like Gris (Nomada Studio, 2018), Life is Strange 2 (Dontnod Entertainment, 2018 - 2019), Kind Words (Popcannibal, 2019) and Concrete Genie (Pixelopus, 2019). It lost out to Gris and now I have played Sea of Solitude, I kind of understand why.
In the game, players are in control of Kay. A young woman with her inner demons on the outside. She appears as a dark, monster-girl hybrid with a large orange backpack and not much else to her name. Except her trusty boat. To begin, Kay wakes up on her boat unaware of how she ended up in the middle of the ocean. She then follows a bright light in the distance which sets her on her mission of self-acceptance and compassion for others. The player must traverse Kay via some basic platforming through each chapter of the game, whilst avoiding monsters that wish to hinder her journey and clearing corruptions that are causing the monsters to appear. Most noticeably, a fish-woman monster that if met in the sea will snap you up; alligator style. The only thing to help Kay through her painful memories and realisations is her light flare which interacts with objects and helps point players in the right direction if needs be.
The game’s simplistic style; although poignant can be a bit of a hindrance, especially considering most of the game is shrouded in darkness to reflect Kay’s state of mind. Platforms are difficult to see, and this often leads to falling into the sea and being swallowed by the monster. It is also at times unclear on what the player should be doing – even with the light flare to hand. I also had multiple issues with glitching where I would have Kay out of harms way but due to a slight glitch in the game, Kay would end up falling into the water and again, being swallowed whole. These glitches even made my PS4 make a disc jumping type sound on more than 5 occasions.
Although the story could be relevant at times and I understood where the developers were going with it - by the end of the game I fully understood how Kay’s trauma could conjure up such a dark, sorrowful world – what took me out of it though was the questionable dialogue, which many others have also stated ruined the game for them. With instances such as bullies taunting Kay’s younger brother with “wow, aren’t ugly band shirts a little outdated?” when they are clearly the cool thing to wear these days and a guy on a first date saying “you’re the kind of person I could imagine having kids with” (yikes!) is just a little outdated by today’s standards, yet the game was released in 2019? If you can look past these instances though – no matter how difficult it may seem – Sea of Solitude’s story can be understood as an important lesson in understanding mental health and loneliness and how it affects not only yourself but the others around you too.
It is important to note that although this game features a lot of hard hitting subjects and frightening visuals – it even opens with a note from the game’s director Cornelia Geppert stating that “this game contains sensitive topics that some players may find distressing […] it is not intended to serve as professional advice or guidance.” – Sea of Solitude does have some beautiful features to it. First of all, the environments are excellent with the theme of water flowing throughout each section of Kay’s world (water which looks serene once all the corruptions have been cleared, by the way). This includes the architecture of the towns Kay explores and the physical manifestations of Kay’s crumbling and decaying mental wellbeing. Lastly, each of the monsters that Kay faces all have a sense of familiarity about them whilst still being spooky, the uncanny valley affect if you will! This heightened the tension and made jumping across large pools of water quite stressful! (in a good way). Bonus good point, there are also a couple of extra tasks and collectables scattered throughout the game which add an extra level of commitment if you like that sort out thing, however if like me you’re happy to do them IF you find them, you don’t miss out on anything by not completing them all.
Before purchasing Sea of Solitude for myself I looked into reviews which did prepare me for some of the more lacklustre aspects of this game. It didn’t however completely put me off and I am glad that I experienced the game for myself as I have enjoyed my 3-4 hours of gameplay. Although lacking in some areas such as graphics, dialogue and glitches; Sea of Solitude is an important game which rightfully joins the ranks as a ‘Game for Impact’, I just wish it played a little better.
Sea of Solitude is now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
For more reviews see what else I have to offer here at nerdoutwordout.com as well as my own blog hopeelizab.co.uk. Oh! Also, if you want to watch my entire play through of this game, it’s made up of 4 parts on our YouTube channel! (Link above this post!)