Reef Shot Review
We have a really nice winter this spring, don’t we? But there’s no reason to fret, computer games are saving the day (or at least our freezing carcasses) once again! Let’s face it – as a European wading through snowbanks my chances of going to South America to scuba dive and take photos of colourful fish while following the trail of lost El Dorado are horribly slim. Fortunately, where reality fails, we can always resort to fiction. Reef Shot, a new title from the studio Nano Games, takes us for a relaxing holiday of our dreams. Or at least that is what it wants to do because this Last Minute offer is not as attractive as it would seem at first glance.
The plot in Reef Shot, as it usually happens with casual games, is really simple, verging on being just a pretext. We play here as Scott, a freelance photographer, who was hired to document the life of underwater fauna near the Robinson Crusoe Island. Sleepish expedition becomes much more exciting though when during the exploration of the ocean’s bed we discover sunken Mayan artefacts. According to the legend, a group of natives, fearing the greedy conquistadors, loaded all the riches and wisdom of El Dorado onto a ship in the vain hope to escape as far as possible from the danger. The treasure, however, disappeared without a trace and it’s up to us whether it will be found or remain hidden forever. Fortunately, we’re not completely on our own during this quest – almost all the time we are accompanied by the voice of our helper Renée, who often gives us advice, shares her knowledge about the fish and encourages us to keep going.
This water trek takes about three or four hours and allows us to visit a few diving spots around the island. I need to point out here that Reef Shot is by no means a “traditional” adventure game: we don’t gather here any items, we don’t talk with other people (after all, maintaining a conversation while holding a mouthpiece between your teeth would be quite challenging), we don’t solve any puzzles. The whole gameplay comes down to swimming after an arrow pointing to the place where we need to go and taking photos of the things the game tells us to. It is quite pleasant, though becomes quite tedious in the long run. I don’t recommend going to more than one diving place a day because you risk a danger of falling asleep on your keyboard.
As befitted a casual game, it is very easy to play. We swim around using WSAD, look about by moving the mouse and zoom in and out with the scroll wheel. Our diver likes to take his time while swimming, so it’s worth to make him hurry a bit by pressing Shift. By the time the game ended, my finger was nearly falling off from mashing the button. The pain cannot be avoided though because our oxygen reserves are limited. When we run out, we have to replay the whole level from the very beginning. Fortunately, there are ways to replenish the O2. How? It’s high time to talk about the details of the gameplay.
A representation of the object or the fish we are supposed to take picture of appears in the down right corner of the screen. Just below the image we can see a couple of mysterious stars. They indicate the quality of the photo that is required to pass the objective. The better the snapshot turns out – sufficiently zoomed and sharp – the more stars we will get for it. As the story progresses, we acquire more advanced models of cameras with which we can take photos worth as much as five stars, but at the same time the difficulty level soars. Believe me, trying to take a high quality photo of a fish swishing around you while keeping in mind the need to focus the camera, are far from being relaxing. More than once or twice I ended up hurling insults at the unruly fish. Finding Nemo has never before been so hard.
With the gathered stars we can buy various bonuses, for instance a new bottle of oxygen, additional roll of film for our camera or various sidequests, which require making more photos of underwater species or sunken planes and whatnot. Truth be told, I wasn’t particularly enticed to explore more than was necessary. I guess it was mainly the fault of graphics. I know that the visual side of the game is of secondary importance, but when it comes to the production that relies so strongly on showing us the wonders of the world, it just needs to look astonishing. Yes, the fish are okay and nicely animated, and some nook and crannies of the ocean have certain appeal, but I would gladly see more life there – some seaweed, scattered garbage and more schools of fish. Either National Geographic was lying in their documentaries or the game has a lot to work on. A reviewer’s duty require that I mention here also the music, which is of “elevator” quality. It’s playing somewhere in the background and nobody pays any attention to it whatsoever.
All in all, Reef Shot is a production for casual players who look for a light and not overly demanding entertainment. Even they can, however, feel at times bored with the monotony of the gameplay or feel frustrated with the difficulty of making decent photos or the need to replay the whole level in case of a failure. At least, I was frustrated. If only the graphics was breath-taking, I would recommend that game as a sort of a trivia. But it isn’t, so only wanna-be divers can take a look at it. The rest of the world may just pass over it without much regret.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10
– educational value
– the look and animation of fish
– despite everything it can be fun
– occasionally too frustrating to be relaxing
– becomes boring when you play it for a longer time
– the ocean looks too empty