|Platforms||:||Sony PlayStation 2|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
Few console games simulate reality without adding fantasy elements or other gratuitous embellishments. Fewer games still are realistic, non-violent, and fun.
Much to my surprise, Everblue 2, a PlayStation 2 game from Capcom, is such a game.
Everblue 2 is a scuba diving game that challenges players to salvage untold wealth and waste from the ocean. From their base of operations on Valentir Island, gamers explore the surrounding depths in a first-person perspective, with nothing in hand but an empty sack.
When in the open sea, players skim along the ocean floor, using sonar to detect unseen items. The sonar can be adjusted to echolocate items of various materials, such as wood, glass, and metal. Wreckage in interior locations can be seen and obtained without this device. In Wizardry-style fashion, each item is unidentified when first recovered. Players must bring their salvage to a shop to be identified, after which it can be sold for money, combined into more potent items, incorporated into building plans, or bequeathed as a gift.
About a third of actual game time is spent in the water, with the rest spent in the local village. There, a point-and-click interface provides players with access to local shops and townspeople, many of whom have requests for Leo to recover personal items or lost artifacts. A story plays out through these interactions, leading players to explore increasingly dangerous and complex sites: a crashed plane, a sunken cruise ship, submerged caverns, and more.
These ruins are not ghost ships or booby-trapped temples of doom; the greatest threat to Leo's health are the inherent (and realistic) risks of the sport. Only so much can be carried away from these sites before the diver becomes bogged down and begins losing health. Even unencumbered, Leo has a limited air supply. As tempting as it may be to delve deeply and carry much, nothing is as terrifying as being trapped with no way out and only seconds of air left. (Claustrophobics need not apply.) Sure, you could strip a luxury liner bare if you like, bagging every deck chair and light fixture — but you'll waste time surfacing and unloading it all, while the real treasure of the deep lies beneath. Greed and poor planning will leave you poor, dead, or both.
Everblue uses a control scheme similar to many first-person shooting games, where one analog stick controls movement and the other dictates camera direction. This combination makes it easy to navigate both the open ocean floor and the tight corridors of a scuttled ship. A flashlight automatically activates when exploring abysses or interior environments. Especially on dry land, the menus offer a multitude of options and information, and are also easy to navigate.
The village is set to a background of peppy, tropical music that fits the environment, and is in sharp contrast to the silence found beneath the waves. There, only the sound effects of breathing through one's scuba gear accompany the mission. But the tune that suddenly sounds when large, many-toothed fish appear evokes Spielberg's famous shark.
This fish and others can be captured with an underwater camera and stored in a non-threatening aquarium, but at no time did I find that Everblue captured the beauty and majesty of aquatic life. Perhaps I was too intent on finding more treasure (or junk — I'll collect it either way) to notice, but the graphics do not lend to this game being a peaceful exercise in relaxation, and lacks the aimless freedom of Pilotwings.
Despite that nature and the total lack of combat, weapons, or other threats of violence, Everblue 2 is a strangely addicting game. It's very tempting to submerge for one more dive, seeking the last item needed to complete a collection or to finish pillaging a sunken trove. Amid the more mainstream games available for the PlayStation 2, Everblue 2 is easy to overlook, but you'll be glad you took the plunge.
This article is copyright (c) 2003, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 15-Mar-03