An expedition goes missing on a Polynesian island whilst searching for the cure for a rare disease. Armed only with her puzzle solving abilities and strange dreams, a young woman goes it alone in an attempt to find them.
Let’s set sail for Call of The Sea.
Set in 1934, Call of The Sea finds the lead character Norah suffering from an unnamed affliction that is destroying her quality of life. We learn that she is getting weaker and weaker but the only sign of her illness is a strange pattern on the skin of her hands.
Her husband Harry puts together an expedition and sets off to an Island 74 miles off the coast of Tahiti in order to search for a rumoured cure for his wife’s illness, but many months after setting off the expedition is feared lost. Contact with the party has died out and the ship that they sailed on has not returned to its home port.
Norah receives a package in the post containing items linked to the expedition including a Ritual Dagger, a key and a photograph and decides to search for Harry on what the locals call the ‘Cursed Island’ herself.
Arriving at the island just after waking up from a dream about swimming in a psychedelic underwater kingdom, Norah (feeling strangely re-energised) sets off alone and is soon exploring a beautiful island paradise with locations ranging from golden sandy beaches to a looming mountainous landscape straight from the cover of Houses of The Holy by Led Zepplin.
The island turns out to be part of a Lovecraftian universe full of Ancient gods, mythical creatures and magic, but this is not a horror game in any way. By finding items and clues in and around the island, Norah pieces together a tragic story of disaster, madness, treachery and death that I will not go into here as that would spoil the game for anyone wishing to play it.
The game is a ‘Walking Simulator’ and the bulk of the gameplay revolves around exploration, discovering clues and then using the knowledge gained to solve (sometimes complex) puzzles. These puzzles allow you to gain further access to the island and in turn learn the fate of Harry’s expedition.
With an art style somewhere between Sea of Thieves and Firewatch, the graphics are a pleasure to look at and make the island come alive as you explore it. 2D storytelling sequences take place whenever a letter from Harry is discovered and that art style really shines at these points.
The sound design does another great job of putting the player right there in Norah’s shoes. A particular sequence based around a shipwreck in a thunderstorm stood out to me as being particularly impressive.
The puzzles range from simple to rage inducing so solving them all is no walk in the park. Luckily Norah writes down any relevant clues that she discovers in her notebook. This is very handy as a full page of clues in the notebook will give you an idea of what you need to work with to solve a puzzle. It is not necessary to have all of the clues to solve every puzzle but some of the more difficult ones certainly require as much information as possible, so if the page is not full you know that you need to do more exploring in order to fill it.
On at least two occasions (tuning the Mountain Organ being one of them) I had to take a break from the game as a particular puzzle was deeply frustrating me. After sleeping on it, I can report that in the end I was able to play the game to completion and the finale? Well, you decide which way Norah’s journey ends.
The controls are adequate for a Walking Sim but could be better. It felt like being on rails at some points, for example you could not walk over certain raised stones or jump off the side of stairs. This gets a bit grating as you are walking back and forth multiple times to solve some of the puzzles.
Swimming however was designed very well and there is nothing quite like zooming around in the current through various gates and seeing the wonder of the underwater world within the island. It was a bit like being an Endoscopic camera exploring a small Intestine at certain points. Sounds kind of gross, but if you play the game you will see what I mean by that.
Norah may be exploring the island on her own but she is by no means the only character ever-present during the game. The island itself seems to have a personality all of its own – a presence, which is further fleshed out by the fish, birds and other creatures that live within it. With a native 4K/60 presentation on Xbox Series X, the game is definitely a looker.
If you want to investigate a mystery by exploring a beautiful location and solving puzzles whilst also learning about Polynesian culture this is a good place to do just that. I have played numerous games of this type over the years and this is another that I really enjoyed. I certainly felt a sense of achievement at the game’s conclusion.
With sumptuous visuals, a gorgeous soundtrack and some very clever puzzles, you’d be wise to check this game out on Game Pass or via Steam.
Played on Xbox Series X