With the release of new consoles and better hardware, oftentimes smaller releases, or at the very least, titles that refrain from the usual carnage and AAA chaos found in action-heavy games, go under the radar to mainstream audiences. Adventure games in particular, which once was at the forefront of PC gaming has in recent years, seen a decline.
Call of the Sea boldly revitalizes the genre for both PC and Xbox players, with a modern coat of paint and simple controls that allow just the right amount of flexibility to cater to both adventure game enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
The game, like any good point and click adventure game worth its salt, heavily relies on its narrative which in Call of the Sea follows the exploits of one, Norah Everhart, an art teacher, in search of her lost husband, Harry. The story opens with Norah stating that her dearly beloved has mysteriously vanished after setting off on an expedition in the hopes of finding a cure for an equally mystifying ailment that has followed Norah and her family all her life.
The game opens with Norah recounting to herself in regards to a parcel she had received from Harry, containing clues to the whereabouts of her missing husband, which happens to match up with her strange dreams of the same island in which the game unfolds. Set in close proximation to Tahiti, Call of the Sea evokes imagery reminiscent of Tahitian culture and art, specifically in regards to sculpture and relief-focused designs, such as the iconic Tiki.
Set in the 1930s and coupled with a vibrant cartoon-like aesthetic, one which heavily delves into the Chutulu / Lovecraft mythos, Call of the Sea often feels like it could have existed as a pre-superhero era Marvel comic from the 50s, during the time when comics focused more on the supernatural and creepy. Similarly, the adventure game hook of slowly unravelling a mystery fits well with the design of Call of the Sea, making the inclination to solve puzzles, that much more appealing.
As someone who seldom plays adventure style games, I was worried that Call of the Sea would be challenging or frustrating, thankfully the game does a great job in balancing its difficulty curb as the game progresses. Starting out, the puzzles found within Call of the Sea consist primarily of matching pieces, finding lost items and merely observing the world around you. The title balances puzzle-solving with world-building in a way that keeps the pace of the game going, with Norah jotting down any significant bits of information into her journal, which can be accessed at any time during gameplay.
One puzzle in particular that I enjoyed that stood out to me in Call of the Sea, took place during the end of Chapter 03, in which the player directs Norah towards a chasm outfitted with strange otherworldly eyes. These Lovecraftian eyes, when interacted with, ooze a mysterious black substance that at first glance, seemed abstract. However, after climbing back up to the prior area, the player will quickly discover a set of magnifying lenses outfitted onto a very 1930’s era looking mechanism.
From here, the player must match the distinct eye reliefs found in the other room by using the lenses that project ink onto a substrate and eventually result in a constellation that the player can use to proceed further.
The mix of imaginative puzzles that evoke Lovecraft, along with the more typical Adventure game elements ultimately gives Call of the Sea a distinct yet familiar feel that should please fans of the genre. My biggest gripe with Call of the Sea is that some of its exposition feels stretched out, particularly in sections that bridge long distances such as when Norah is travelling via boat. Thankfully, this is a small complaint in otherwise charming little Adventure game that doesn’t overstay its welcome.