Welcome to Best of Xbox Game Pass where each week I’m going to pick out a game available on Game Pass and explain why I think it is worth playing. While I’ll certainly include some of the bigger titles available on the service, I’ll focus more on other games that you might have overlooked in the hope of leading you to a hidden gem
Despite launching straight onto Game Pass back in December of last year, Call of the Sea struggled to make a splash and has sunken into the depths of relative obscurity. So I’m here to drag it out of the water and provide some hasty CPR, especially since Call of the Sea just launched on Playstation, bringing a whole new chance for this little pearl of a game to find an appreciative audience! And I promise I’ll stop making bad water jokes now. Sea?
The game takes place in the 1930s where we take on the role of Norah, a woman suffering from some sort of mysterious illness that has begun covering her hands in strange pattern of patches. Her loving husband, Harry, whom she refers to as old pal, hired a crew and headed for a strange island in the South Pacific which he believes could hold the cure to the love of his life’s affliction. He vanishes, however, and we pick up as Norah reaches the same island, intent on finding her missing husband. What she finds is ancient technology, a ship ripped apart, a tale of a crew seemingly being driven to insanity and an odd black ooze.
Call of the Sea plays out as a first-person adventure where you solve puzzles to advance the story. It’s a relaxed experience with not even a hint of combat or risk of failure, letting you soak up the lovely vibrant visuals and the story. There’s Lovecraftian elements to the narrative, but the game brings a fun twist to it and never dives into horror, instead being happy to just occasionally toss in a reference to classical works of psychological terror and trauma. Call of the Sea leans into its old-timey vibes with dialogue that some might find corny, but that I personally find charming, the kind that creates that classic adventure feel. And the story it takes you on is captivating and interesting, albeit maybe shorter than I would have liked.
One sticking point worth mentioning for some of you fine folk is how Call of the Sea does lean heavily into the trope of using letters, pictures and items you find scattered around to impart almost all of its story. You rarely get to interact with other characters, and so you’re left to Norah’s lovely voice and the dozens of documents that you’ll find lying around. To me, this was never an issue because everything was written well, and despite it being a constant flow of exposition it never felt that way. But I know there are other people out there who hate having so much of the story delivered this way.
What would a puzzle game be without the puzzles, though? Call of the Sea tends to have one big, central puzzle in each of its chapters with smaller parts scattered around. They’re a varied bunch, each one bringing with it different ideas and styles to make every challenge feel unique and fun to solve. They are a challenge collection of conundrums, too, striking that tricky balance between being hard and being annoying. A couple are perhaps too obfuscated, especially because some of the clues lead you in completely the wrong direction. However, the rest of them were a joy to complete and had me properly scratching my head and flicking through Norah’s journal to find the solution.
At five or six hours long, Call of the Sea is a compact and gripping adventure game in the spirit of old titles like Myst. If you love puzzles and don’t want to worry about getting shot at or dying every five seconds then Call of the Sea is going to be perfect for you. I’d highly recommend taking the plunge (aaaaaaaaand the water jokes are back) and checking out this excellent game from Out of the Blue.