A year ago, a game called Beyond Blue was released. It was an ocean exploration game based on David Attenborough’s documentary Blue Planet II, created with input from expert marine biologists and game designers. Despite all that insight, it ended up being a bit boring (to be honest), with repetitive gameplay and a narrative so ham-fisted that it was almost insulting.
These are issues many games with environmental issues face. They have a point to get across, and sometimes the messaging becomes more important than making a good game. Luckily, Samudra manages to avoid these trappings.
Samudra is a 2D puzzle platformer that takes place in a world that has become waterlogged due to a climate change induced flood. You play as a young child who has sunken to the bottom of the toxic sea. To find their way back to the surface, they must navigate an underwater world overtaken by garbage and pollution and avoid traps, hostile creatures, and dangerous humans who are running factories that are leeching the last resources from the ocean.
The game is a side scrolling platformer that will have you running through the ocean setting. As you move through each area, you’ll be able to interact with different things to help open up your path, whether it be using your lantern to burn away nets or climbing over random debris. Every so often, there will be puzzles to solve. They’re usually pretty simple, even if they are a bit tedious, and include a number of things, such as rotating pipes and matching patterns.
Other times you’ll have to be stealthy, ducking into hidey holes and sneaking past enemies. Most importantly, though, the game allows you to pet the little sea bunnies (or nudibranchs) that appear randomly. This isn’t anything important, per se, but you earn an achievement for petting enough of them, so. You know. Do it for the grind.
Samudra really shines in two areas: music and the visuals. The soundtrack is a mix of environmental sounds and piano that fits well in the underwater setting. It manages to be both melancholy and hopeful, just like the plot itself, and it’s something you can really enjoy listening to, even after the game is finished. In addition, the graphics are just amazing. Despite taking place in an environment piled with pollution, Samudra is drawn so beautifully. Each area is detailed and makes use of neon colors to contrast the dingy, dark depths of the ocean.
Honestly, these high-quality production values help make the message of environmental protection much more impactful; seeing that pollution hasn’t completely destroyed the beauty of the natural world around it leaves you hopeful, yet heartbroken.
With only five chapters (not including the prologue and ending), Samudra boasts a pretty short play time. However, this isn’t a bad thing. It manages to pack a lot into just a few hours and tells its story well in that time through the environment and music. While the gameplay isn’t insanely challenging or unique, it still manages to be fun by combining exploration, puzzles, and stealth. Unlike some games with similar intentions, Samudra’s message doesn’t feel oversimplified or overbearing; it simply presents a future caused by current problems while also providing hope for change.