In Other Waters is a game by developer Jump Over The Age, headed by Gareth Damien Martin. The game delivers an incredibly unique experience of exploring an underwater alien world through its simplicity. Do not let that fool you, though; underneath the simplicity lies immense depth.
In the game, the player assumes the role of an AI who guides xenobiologist Dr. Ellery Vas as she explores the vast oceans of the planet Gliese 677Cc. Vas is in search of her friend Minae Nomura, who called her to the planet only to go missing. As a mysterious AI, the player’s job is to guide Vas to uncover what happened behind her friend’s disappearance, as well as the planet’s history in the process.
While the underwater exploration concept has been done many times in other games, In Other Waters’s presentation is what truly makes it stand out. The game is presented in a radar, and Vas is a singular dot in the middle. The interface also shows the oxygen and power levels in Vas’s suit, as well as icons for performing several different actions in the world such as collecting samples and storing samples.
In Other Waters uses its simplicity to a clever degree, implementing different colors in the background to indicate the situation the player is in. Most of the early game time will be spent in safe waters, so the ocean is in a teal color. However, as the player progresses further into the game, some areas may turn the water green, pointing out the toxicity in the area. Players can also explore different depths in the ocean, and going into deeper caves will turn the background completely black.
Gameplay wise, In Other Waters behaves like a point-and-click adventure game. Players scan the area around Vas for objects and points for her to move across the ocean floor. Certain points also contain samples, which can be taken back to the base for examination or used as items to gain more power or oxygen for the suit while traversing. Additionally, some samples can create or clear certain pathways in order to progress through different areas. Players can plan dives with a certain goal in mind, whether it is to advance the plot, uncover new species, or simply gather more samples to store in the base for future dives.
The world of Gliese 677Cc is a delight to explore as well. Every single feature and object in the game has some sort of flavor text when scanned, and a huge variety of species can be scanned to learn more about them. When samples are taken back to the base, Vas can examine them in her lab. Through collecting certain samples of a species, behavior and theories will be recorded. Once those two requirements are out of the way, a sketch of that species will unlock, completing the analysis. Even after the credits roll, the world can still be explored to fill out the game’s taxonomy.
The soundtrack fits nicely with the environments. In safe waters, players will hear calming and ethereal music. While in toxic waters, the music shifts to provide a sense of urgency. When going into the deeper areas of the planet, the music becomes incredibly low key, emphasizing the loneliness and almost lifeless feeling of the area. In Other Waters does not have the vibrant and grandiose 3D models found in other underwater exploration games such as ABZÛ or Subnautica. However, the constant flavor text and smart use of colors and music truly make the world feel alive.
Where the game falters is in its somewhat unintuitive controls, and some frame rate drops during certain sections of the game (on Nintendo Switch). While the simplistic presentation helps In Other Waters stand out, the user interface can take a bit to get used to, with some confusing control mapping hindering the experience. While the frame rate drops are infrequent, they can be annoying, especially if the player is in a toxic area where oxygen depletes faster than normal. Having been in situations where either the suit’s power or oxygen was dangerously low, a slight stutter could mean the difference between using a sample just in time to restore some parameters, or dying and respawning back at base.
However, these drawbacks do not outweigh the aspects of what In Other Waters does right. The game brilliantly uses music and colors to bring forth life to a point-and-click adventure on a mysterious planet. As players explore Gliese 677Cc, learning about the different species can be just as enticing along the way as they discover the planet’s dark history.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Also available for PC.