It’s dark. A monster is weaving its way through murky waters. We hear a call of help to be pulled out of this loneliness. This is how we’re introduced to Kay and Sea of Solitude.
Kay wakes to find herself in the dark, in a boat in the ocean and looking like a monster. She is confused and doesn’t know what to do until she notices a light in the distance.
Sea of Solitude plays a lot with lightness and darkness and transitions between them well. When there is light the world is calm and comfortable and we can roam around without fear; however, we are just as easily plunged into darkness and the fear starts creeping in, as well as the monsters.
There are a variety of monsters lurking as we embark on our journey and, what’s worse, they seem to know us. They channel into our fear and negative thoughts and try to drag us down with them. Encouraging us to get into the water with them to be devoured.
Sea of Solitude tackles themes of loneliness, depression and other mental health issues as it tells the story of Kay and her family. We navigate the world in our little boat, and it feels huge; however, the reality suggests it’s quite small, but disorienting, as we’re turned around while evading our monsters.
Sea of Solitude draws you into the story as you complete puzzles and platforming to try to avoid, understand or overcome the monsters that are thrown your way. These range from the swimming creature in the water who keeps trying to draw you in, to the ones that resemble members of Kay’s family.
Then there is Kay herself. She also looks like the monsters of the world and must work through all the obstacles to try and find her true self. As people who have struggled with a mental illness will know, this is much easier said than done and it can be hard to reach for the light when all your inner dialogue is dragging you down. This is also true for Kay, especially as she doesn’t feel like she has anyone to help her.
The world of Sea of Solitude is beautiful in both the light and the dark. The story plays out in chapters and is based in a city that is vaguely familiar to Kay, even though it is, mostly, underwater and we can see buildings shimmering underneath and around our boat. Add to this a beautiful soundtrack and sound effects and we are presented with a very immersive game.
The gameplay revolves following ‘Glowy’, a glowing golden ball, as it leads us through the chapters. Glowy is very good at getting stuck in corruption though and we need to help remove it. Conveniently, we have a backpack where we can store all the corruption we find, but what happens when there is too much?
Kay’s main beacon is her boat where it feels safe and familiar and the darkness can’t seep in. She also has flares that she can send up into the sky and it points us in the direction of our next objective or surrounds us in light to dissolve antagonists.
When I started playing the game I had a vague idea what it was about and that it would have mental health themes. However, I didn’t expect to be so invested in the characters after such a short time playing. Each chapter leaves you wanting to know more and hoping everything turns out ok. The team at Jo-Mei has done an excellent job with Sea of Solitude and it is definitely worth checking out.
Want to see more?
Check out the first 2 hours on Twitch: