The Sea Will Claim Everything
First posted on 04 June 2012. Last updated on 16 July 2012.
Bundle In A Box
The Sea Will Claim Everything is part of the Bundle In A Box released in May 2012 by Kyttaro Games. The bundle includes 6 additional games: 1893: A World's Fair Mystery, Ben There, Dan That!, Gemini Rue, Metal Dead, The Shivah, and Time Gentlemen, Please!. Unlockable extras for the bundle include a booklet for Metal Dead and soundtracks for Gemini Rue and The Shivah.
The Sea Will Claim Everything is a point-and-click indie adventure game by the husband and wife team of Jonas and Verena Kyratzes. At first glance, the game's cutesy, cartoony graphics and simplistic interface give the impression that this is a juvenile game designed for small children. However, it soon becomes apparent that the game is in fact a deeply political, philosophical, and even academic narrative that defies easy description. It is to adventure games what Umberto Eco's Il nome della rosa (In the Name of the Rose) is to murder mystery novels.
Essentially, the game takes the formulas and tropes of the adventure genre and turns them inside out. While the game still possesses a coherent narrative and a cast of intriguing characters, it is obvious that the game's goal is not simply to immerse players in a colorful and creative fictional universe but rather to use that universe to stimulate thought and action in the real world, particularly regarding the present-day ongoing financial and political crisis in Europe. Far from preachy, the game instead relies on poetry, satire, puns, and deeply philosophical questions. Needless to say, enjoying the game requires very slow and thoughtful play, which the developer encourages in the game's introduction. While there are fun puzzles and quests to complete, by far the greatest part of the game's appeal lies in its intelligent and brilliant writing.
Unsurprisingly, the ideal audience for this game seems to be well educated individuals with a great deal of background in the humanities, particularly in literary criticism, critical theory, cultural studies, philosophy, and Ancient Greek literature. While such extensive knowledge is not required to solve the puzzles and ultimately save the citizens of The Fortunate Isles, gamers who are familiar with the likes of Slavoj Žižek, Karl Marx, and Plato (and can locate Greece on a map, of course) are in a much better position to fully appreciate this game. Those who find these intellectual topics a daunting task, however, are better off looking elsewhere.
The story of the game is relatively straightforward. The citizens of The Fortunate Isles are being ruthlessly exploited by Lord Urizen, who is taking advantage of the current debt crisis to rob the land and its people. The players' character is summoned by The, a druid whose ancient home—the "biotechnological" dwelling called Underhome—is being foreclosed by government goons. Despite the atrocities committed by Lord Urizen and his puppet leaders, however, the people seem apathetic, frightened, and depressed—unable or unwilling to overthrow him. The players' first mission is to heal Underhome that has been damaged and debilitated by the goons. Soon, however, the quest expands into helping the people of The Fortunate Isles overcome the despot and their own feelings of helplessness or apathy.
The characters in the game are many and diverse. The main characters are The (a wizened old druid), EDDIE (a cross-dressing artificial intelligence), and Niamh (The's resourceful girlfriend). There is also Underhome itself, which is a living organism from whose body grows dozens of strange contraptions found throughout the home. As well, there are plenty of fish, birds, turtles, crabs, mice, and lizards, as well as fantasy creatures such as dragons, minotaurs, and tree people. However, unlike their stereotypes in fables such as Aesop's, these characters seldom behave in a predictable fashion. The Cyclops, for instance, has long switched his diet from sailors to bread and cheese.
The interface is perhaps the game's weakest element, consisting entirely static drawings by Verena Kyratzes. Her style reminds me most of Dr. Seuss' children books, with their eccentric characters and colorful settings. While some players may be turned off by this art style, I find that the deliberate simplicity of the interface allows me to focus better on the writing. Besides, the game does a good job of explaining the crudity of the interface by making it part of the story—the players are using a hastily assembled "window" constructed by an old, eccentric druid. In fact, playing the game on a widescreen monitor makes the interface look like a window, couched in the center of the screen and surrounded by blackness. Although arguably quite crude by modern standards, the developer makes the most of the interface, turning its limitations into fun assets for the story and puzzles. Indeed, my favorite puzzle in the game relies on a single switch on the window whose absurd purpose is explained at the beginning of the game but is only realized much later.
Players move from room to room by clicking on movement arrows that appear in a window on the top right part of the screen. Clicking on items in the scenes either describes them, adds them to the inventory, or performs an automatic action on them. Clicking on characters brings up a dialog menu, in which some options are not available until after the players have performed a trigger action or witnessed a trigger event. A nice feature that I particularly appreciate is a scroll that keeps track of the tasks that I need to complete at any given time. Since there are many characters in the game who need the players' help, it is convenient to have this list available. However, it is still useful to take notes of where the characters are located, since there are several islands and other locations in the game. Fortunately, the game also includes a handy map tool that lets the players teleport instantly to the various locations. This feature saves a great deal of time and minimizes navigation tedium.
Many of the puzzles in the game involve alchemy. Players will first need to find recipes and then the primary and secondary ingredients to produce the potions. There is also a kitchen where food can be prepared. Specific potions and food items are required to placate characters or bypass obstacles. Naturally, the recipes and ingredients are often difficult to find, especially the Salmon of Wisdom needed to make the great Potion of Recovery needed to win the game.
Seemingly, every item in the scene—from the hundreds of individual book spines to the tiniest flower or mushroom—can be clicked on to receive a fun and often wry description. I have found many of these descriptions to be quite funny, such as a "bottle of mustache ions" and a "very powerful magic umbrella that can do almost anything but keep the rain away". Clicking on a big stone in the first home offers a witty description: "This ancient stone spent thousands of years deep in the bowels of the earth, in dark places where no human will ever go. It's useful for leaning against." The game literally has thousands of such descriptions, encouraging me to click on every tiny item I can find.
Of particular merit is the wonderful musical score, composed by Chris Christodoulou. Featuring a variety of stringed instruments and piano, it is among the best soundtracks I have heard in video games in a long time and fits perfectly with the mood of the game. My favorite track is called "Home, Underhome" that is a richly layered track oozing with mystery and wonderment.
All in all, I greatly enjoy The Sea Will Claim Everything and highly recommend it to any gamer who can appreciate a deeply allegorical game with lots of great writing. However, the slow pace and frequent allusions to academic writers and philosophers will turn away some gamers. The artwork, while charming and whimsical, will likewise turn off gamers who are not accustomed to this art style. Therefore, I recommend the game most highly to those gamers who are well educated in the humanities. To put it another way: If you are intrigued by Eco's novel, then you will be delighted with Kyratzes' game.