This first-person puzzle adventure is set in 1934 on a mysterious island in Polynesia. You will play Norah, a woman who suffers from a strange disease that causes her hands to have black spots, and who claims that a cure is one of the secrets of the island. They’re in search of Norah’s husband, Harry, who has come to seek a cure and hasn’t come back yet. You depend on hints left by Harry as you navigate the jungle, and through the notes in his journals and Norah’s remarks, we get a sense of their relationship, which is sweet and tragically romantic.
In reality, Call of the Sea is a complex escape room where the focus is on the puzzles and the plot is just history.
On Mars in 2087 or during the Roman Empire, it may take place just as easily as on an island in 1934.
The puzzles are carefully designed so that, rather than crashing into walls, you feel like you are racing along a fair difficulty curve. The more you explore it, each chapter is a standalone puzzle that gets more layered and complex. Norah’s notebook is the most helpful feature: she only writes down real hints, leaving space to show whether you have overlooked one. Although it is difficult to unravel some mysteries, you will never be let down trying to determine if that picture of a bird is the secret to anything.
It doesn’t matter if it’s not in Norah’s diary. You’ll always come across gadgets that you don’t yet know what to do with in true Escape Room fashion, since the clues are farther ahead. This makes the game feel more like a journey than a puzzle string. In each chapter, you have only a small area to explore, and you can always turn a few huts upside down to uncover clues.
To me, however, the underwater parts were a nightmare – the sea certainly didn’t call me.
It’s boring to look for clues underwater, but ironically, the tale is also the best underwater…. As with any good puzzle game, there is a special satisfaction in figuring out the solution to a puzzle that has stumped you, and that is the best reward in the game.
Call of the Sea ramps up the story toward the end, but I was much more interested in the clues than Norah and Harry’s story.
It frustrates, as the best puzzles often do, but no solution feels unearned or gimmicky. This is definitely a game for those who like to chew with a pencil.Call of the Sea is available now, £16.99.