Everblue 2

I like quirky.

Wait, didn't I just start a review with that phrase a couple of weeks ago?

Perhaps I can pass this repetition off the way they do in school. If I browbeat you into understanding the phrase, perhaps it will have the right impact. But, you say, I already understand! You like quirky! Why are you wasting my time with this crap?

To which I can only say: You must be at the wrong website, bub, if you're looking for content that doesn't waste your time.

Everblue 2 is quirky. (Shocked? All right, all right, I'll stop using it.) It's a scuba diving RPG. I'll give you a couple of blank lines to let that percolate.

A scuba diving RPG. I paid damn near full-price for this game, new, from a local gamestore. Why? I won't repeat it again, honest. You know why. I figured it was one of those games that bears two prices in its life, full price, and full price used on half.com. I figured I'd preempt the whole secondary market business and snag it early.

A scuba diving RPG. Unlike most RPGs, there is no combat whatosever in Everblue 2. While there are "enemies" that can hurt you--sharks and poisonous sea snakes--you cannot assault any of the evil fauna that lurk in the depths. You can run away, you can find and use a sonar attachment that scares your watery foes, but never does your character brandish a sword (or harpoon or knife) and bust it Cloud Strife-style.

To be honest, I consider this a Good Thing. It's delightful to play a game where combat is irrelevant, where the goal of the game is not to leave a wake of steaming corpses. Sure, RPGs show the enemies disappearing or disintegrating, but we know the truth--they lie festering on the hillsides, they pile high in the dungeons, they fall from the ubiquitous floating continents like so much detrius. The worlds of most RPGs are terrifying places, where small bands of people cut vast swaths of destruction across entire continents. In Everblue 2, the closest you ever get to a "swath of destruction" is when you go on a salvage spree in one of the game's wrecks. And those items respawn immediately after you leave anyway.

So. A scuba diving RPG. If there's no combat, you say, how is it an RPG at all? (No, you don't really say any of this, I'm sure, and you're probably not thinking it either; nonetheless, it's the easiest way for me to segue without having terribly awkward bridges. Like this one.) Well, as the game progresses, you buy or find better equipment that allows you to descend to further depths, swim faster, and hold more phat l3wt as you plunder the seas. And, yes, your hit points go up occasionally as you gain 'levels.'

Did I mention there were fetch quests?

See, everyone on the island--I don't remember the name; the story's so inconsequential as to be mostly irrelevant--is obsessed with diving or something involving diving. They're missing their dead husband's diary, some clay for sculpture, or taco recipes (no, that's not a joke), and only you can find these things in the deep blue. As you do people favours, they give you their Shells of Friendship, which are as close as this game gets to a progress meter.

The core "storyline", if you want to call it that, takes around ten hours to complete. It'd probably take less if you didn't end up doing a number of the sidequests as well, but sometimes it's nice to swim around in a sunken ocean liner looking for a gramophone, rather than pursuing the Gratuitous Evil Corporation's cronies.

Everblue 2's presentation is simple, but it works beautifully. The island is presented in 2D click-and-move-and-talk form, with the ubiquitous Floating Hand representing, uh, whatever it represents. When you go out to sea, you always stay close to the seabed, and so there are no ascend/dive controls; you simply strafe around like in a first-person shooter. A slow first-person shooter. Without the shooting.

It's when you enter the various derelicts and caves that the game really shines. Now you have a full range of motion, and you have to explore every nook and cranny of the various locales to find what you need to progress. There's a lot of superfluous junk in these "dungeons"--a lot--but it's a blast to just tool around in the depths, feeling a little scared and a little excited as your wan flashlight tries to pierce the darkness.

[I find myself trying to not overuse various poetic terms for the ocean. This is one of those games that inspires such phrases. Not so much the ocean sequences--they're fairly plain--but when you swim through the black and find yourself on a sunken sundeck, complete with rattan chairs, or poking into the crew quarters of a pirate ship, it's hard to not feel a little tingle of excitement, of awe, of poetry-in-wait.]

Here comes the obligatory Issue Paragraph. Certain parts of the game follow blindingly stupid videogame logic; at the start, you can carry a whopping 300g with you, but by the end of the game you can pick up and store bunk beds and six-foot-long lockers with ease. The fact that salvageable items reappear every time you dive into a wreck, while terribly handy for your pocketbook, lacks a certain realism. There's never an explanation for why the boat can only go certain distances away from the island until it gets upgraded. And the core game doesn't last very long, so if you're not a fan of "bonus stuff," you may find yourself done with Everblue 2 before you'd like.

But, as I say in (almost) every paragraph after the obligatory Issue Paragraph, these issues are fairly minor. Every RPG has its dumb tropes, and Everblue 2's just happen to be stranger because they are not familiar to me. How realistic, precisely, are a bunch of treasure chests lying around in the only passageway between Point A and B in every damn RPG ever? I can forgive them, and I can forgive Everblue 2.

What I can't forgive is that we never got Everblue the first over here in the States. It was released in Europe, but us Yanks never got it. A damn shame, really.

A scuba-diving RPG. If that phrase perks up your ears--figuratively, I'm sure--then you will probably enjoy this game as much as I did. It's got its issues, but it occupied every night of mine for a week and a half, which is impressive. The fact that it came out over here at all is even more impressive. If you can--and you like this sort of thing--I heartily recommend supporting it and other (okay, so I lied) quirky titles.

Plus, you can lay one of the best head-turners on your game-playing friends: "Yeah, I just beat Everblue 2. You know, that scuba diving RPG?" And then you can act belligerent when they have no clue what you're talking about.

Because they should.

Return to the Playstation 2 review index.

Last Updated: 2004.08.15