In Other Waters is an engrossing experience that will keep you intrigued from beginning to end. What starts out feeling more like an ocean planet exploration simulator quickly descends into a familiar story of humanity’s greed outweighing its compassion. The rest is all too familiar, but told through the art of scanning and learning in an archaeological manner, which turns you into a helpless bystander to the horrors your race has committed.
In In Other Waters, players take on the role of the AI in the dive suit being worn by biologist Ellery Vas on her journey to locate an old friend who has disappeared. Your input to conversations is limited to a select few yes or no answers, none of which have a huge impact on the story, but they do help you direct your experience as to what sort of AI you are. As the story unfolds, Vas becomes less uptight, being more open with you as the AI and revealing more intimate details about her and her friend, as well as her thoughts on the ecosystems and structures you uncover. The story isn’t original by any means, but the way it’s told to you is, and that’s what makes it stand out.
The core gameplay of In Other Waters is scanning. Using one button you can scan the environment, and then you select objects or a path forward with the joystick. You’re given information about literally every point of interest in the game, with a short sentence explaining what Vas can see. This is useful because the game’s visuals are restricted to a flat UI and small moving dots to represent aquatic wildlife. It’s in keeping with your character, an AI, since that’s all you’d need to see, but for players that want fully realized alien fish, like those of Subnautica, this isn’t the game for you.
As you scan each point of interest, Vas will learn more about the ocean world you’re immersed in. Getting close to new lifeforms will allow you to take samples, which you can analyze back at Vas’ base. Each new bit of knowledge you learn expands your understanding of the world, and this is reflected in the base’s taxonomy records. This element is far from essential to the game and can be completely ignored by players looking to get through the story as fast as possible. However, I’d argue that it is integral to your experience, much like scanning in the Metroid Prime Trilogy.
I tried In Other Waters out both in handheld mode and docked mode. In both you can use the Joy-Con for each system on your suit, selecting points of interest, and moving though menus. When in handheld mode, I actually preferred the touchscreen interface, since this makes the game come alive. It felt much more like using an actual UI to help an explorer on an alien world, which I think is what developer Jump Over The Age was going for. The game’s visuals are quite basic, but they’re brought to life through the use of color. Blue and yellow are the main ones you’ll see in your time, but the spectrum does widen slightly in certain sections. The soundtrack, shifting to match the tone of the story, brings it all together.
As I mentioned, you can just focus on the main story objectives for In Other Waters and be done with it in under 10 hours. With that said, the game does prompt you to explore previous areas further. Each of the creatures you come across has a full taxonomy entry to be completed, and you can only do that by observing them and collecting samples. As a bit of a completionist, I found myself heading back into familiar territory just to head down the paths I didn’t take the first time around, learning more about the ocean life I found there as I did. It doesn’t dramatically increase the game’s length, but it is a great excuse to linger on this world for just a little longer
I had an amazing time with In Other Waters. It’s a game I’d happily play over and over just for the overall combination of colors, sounds, and exploration. The story acts as a reminder of why we should treat our oceans, and each other, with more kindness. If you’re even remotely interested in marine biology, you’ll never put your Switch down.
A review code was provided by the publisher.