Originality is seldom found in today's games. Imagine then when I learned that there is a role-playing diving game. I can't think of any game even being vaguely similar to Everblue. Now you might be reading this and thinking that it doesn't sound too exciting but you'd be wrong. As soon as you become accustomed to the game, Everblue becomes an enjoyable and relaxing gameplay experience that will have you hooked.
The game is set around the island of Daedalus which is surrounded by clear blue seas and is an ideal location to dive. You play the role of Leo Delphino. The game begins with a dream sequence in which you control a diver, Leo's friend Cao, who ends up trapped. The manual says that this section is there to allow the gamer to become accustomed to the control method and it works well.
Interacting with the locals in the town will bring forth information that will lead you to sunken treasures and other such prizes. The first one that you will come across is Luca's treasure. Of course to locate objects underwater you're going to need a sonar device. Leo has a multi-sonar device at the beginning of the game. To be able to dive, your fellow diving companion, Marco, insists that you have an element equipped to your multi-sonar device. There are three elements, wood - which responds to wooden items and books, clay - which responds to pottery etc. and finally metal which detects metallic objects and treasure etc.
As you complete more dives your skills and stamina increase and you will make enough money, from selling your finds in the town, to buy better diving equipment such as better flippers, tanks, and better sacks for holding heavier finds. These enable you to stay longer in the water, dive to greater depths and find more valuable treasures. Some finds will have to be appraised before you can sell them.
The underwater graphics are superb. The fish that occasionally pass you by look real and their animation is superb. Out of the water the pre-rendered, isometric scenery of the town is crisp, clear and pleasant. When you dive underwater the game puts you in first person mode. When you are out of the water though all you control is a cursor and you point to the people or locations that you want to go to. This may sound strange but it allows the game to flow and you to move around the town far quicker than it would if you had a character to move.
This idea of this game could have been a nightmare for a deaf gamer. Think about it. The sonar makes beeping noises. Thankfully Arika have it covered and for every beep the sonar makes, the game provides a visual clue to indicate that it is beeping. Holding the 'L1' button down makes the sonar beep. When you are not near to anything it will show a flashing red square with a red dot in the middle. However, when you are near to something this changes to a flashing green square with green sound arcs in the middle. As you get nearer the flashing becomes quicker until it is virtually constant on the screen. Thanks to the use of these icons to depict the sonar beeping, the game can be enjoyed by deaf gamers. The game even uses clear and simple icons to issue warnings whilst you are under water. Great work Arika.
The game information and conversations are all given in text. The text is static and requires a press of the 'X' button or movement of the right analogue stick in order to progress conversations. You can even change the background to the text to make it clearer to read if you desire. The manual is also very useful. It gives you help on the basic game play and advice on how to get to the first treasure seeking activity, Luca's treasure.
Everblue is not solely about searching shipwrecks for treasure. After Leo has reached a certain level he is given a camera and photo album. Leo can then take photos under water and store them in the album. The local photographer will appraise your work and you can even earn bonuses from taking good pictures. As you progress through the game you will come across many different types of aquatic life and opportunities for photographing them. Leo can also earn various titles and trust coins as rewards for his achievements.
Overall Game Rating: 8.2/10 Everblue is a truly unique game that offers a truly unique gameplay experience. The game moves along at a gentle pace and this allows it to be relaxing and enjoying. This could be one of the surprise titles of the year.
Deaf Gamers comment: Everblue wonderfully caters for deaf gamers with it's use of visual clues and subtitles. Great work Arika.