Samudra – underwater game with a message13th November 2019
I received a lovely message from Khayalan Arts, letting me know that they had an alpha build demo for their game available at itch.io. And full disclosure: I have a degree in Oceanography. You send a gamer oceanographer a heads up about a game about ocean pollution, inspired by experiences of NGO work, and I am all over it.
First and foremost, this demo is an alpha build… but you actually can’t tell. When you get into the menu, you can only hit ‘start,’ and there’s no save – but luckily there are checkpoints (I needed them). But the game itself – it was beautiful, there were no bugs, everything worked, and it was just great. When I go into an alpha build of anything, my expectations are set low – and Samudra just blew it out of the water (ha!).
The game is simple – arrow keys and space bar. That’s it. It’s a sidescroller, not quite a platformer, and although the comparison might be a bit strange, it actually reminds me of Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssee, just with no powers. You move across a meticulously designed ocean-scape, as disposable cups and plastic bags rain down upon you. As you make your way through this eternal snow, you come across various trash-based obstacles, at which point your space bar comes in to interact with the environment.
Then you enter an abstract, steampunk-y corporate structure, navigating conveyor belts, avoiding security drones, and circumventing strange corporate suits (in slippers!). At this point, Samudra explores the ramifications of uncontrolled disposable consumption and the impassable barrier of conglomerate manufacturing.
Samudra was influenced by the devs’ experiences in Indonesia, working in NGO circles, trying to fight ocean pollution. Having written a whole dissertation on scientific issues in the media, I would have loved to talk about Samudra in it. They intend to spread awareness of the consequences surrounding ocean pollution, and a beautiful video game is a fantastic way to do just that.