Samudra is a masterclass in environmental storytelling and minimalist game design
Fairy tales are hard to find these days. With immediate access to countless stories across different media, the days of Grimm and Anderson’s simple moral and wish-fulfilling fables have become relics of a bygone era.
That’s not to say that fairy tales don’t exist in the modern world, with stories from Squid Game to BoJack Horseman being considered by some to be modern fables. Either way, it takes a certain charm for a medium to pull off that fairytale feeling and Samudra does it in spades.
Developed by Indonesian studio Khayalan Arts, Samudra is an outstanding game from the region, which tells a hard-hitting story about mankind’s weaknesses and the decay of underwater life.
An underwater odyssey
Samudra offers players to explore the depths of the ocean as a young child dressed in a striped sweater and wearing a diving helmet. The game begins with the player falling deep into a part of the heavily polluted sea, with even the murky seabed filled with trash and rubbish.
This is all told to the player visually, with Samudra containing no words of dialogue throughout the game. The storybook-like visuals also perfectly capture the straits of the ocean and the dangers lurking there.
The foreground and background feature lots of layers of meticulous detail, really encouraging the player to stop and stare for a while. From plastic bags floating around in the game world to an entire plane trapped underwater, there are plenty of sights to see.
No words, just play
If you thought the layout was straightforward, the controls and gameplay are just as intuitive. Players can only move left and right, and have access to an action button. The action button is used to activate just about everything, and no clues beyond the pictorial bubbles are given to the player as to what to do next.
Even with this simple control scheme, Khayalan Arts has managed to cram Samudra with a variety of play styles. Throughout the game, players will encounter fast-paced events, stealth platforms, chase sequences, and even puzzles. Bioshock style hoses to progress.
Beyond that, players will also encounter a whole litany of characters, from a kraken-sized mermaid to villains in business suits who are completely unbeatable.
If you are not a fan of point-and-click adventure games, Samudra’s gameplay may not be for you. As action-packed as it is, Samudra draws a lot of inspiration from games like Another World or the early Prince of Persia games, where in-game actions are more contextual and not completely player-driven.
In addition to this, there are hidden collectibles to find in the game. Bioluminescent Sea Rabbits can be picked up and petted by players. There are also common household items trapped in bubbles for you to collect. All of this forces players to take the beaten path which is an incentive to explore, but the game can kind of fail when the player tries to back down.
Overall, Samudra is a fantastic game that not only raises awareness for a just cause, but funds it as well, as Samudra’s sales are funneled into year-round collaborations with the Indonesian environmental activist circle.
If you’re looking for a fantastic story, polished artwork, and engaging gameplay, Samudra is available now on Steam.