“That, of course, is the great secret of the successful fool – that he is no fool at all.”
The Sea Will Claim Everything is a Shakespearean fool of a game. It’s bright and crude and quick to make a gag. Yet in the great tradition of fools, it reveals itself to be much smarter than its appearance would have you believe.
In essence, TSWCE is a point and click adventure game and a pretty simple one at that. You explore static screens, talking to characters, clicking on anything and everything. Each screen is hand-drawn with what appears to be felt tip pens, making the game look like the product of a frenzied kindergarten class let loose with the biggest box of crayons and all the orange squash they can handle.
However, play it like you’d play a normal adventure game and you might be disappointed. This isn’t a game where you should worry so much about progression or questing. It’s a game for taking your time with, having conversations with flowers or the occasional octopus pirate. In fact, text makes up the bulk of the game – you’re going to be doing a lot of reading. Which is no bad thing as conversations are handled with humour and rarely get too long in one go to be grating. That said, the game’s level of whimsy might not be to everyone’s taste.
In fact, unlike other adventure games, the puzzles here only really serve to get you to explore the world more and speak to more characters, to uncover more of the story. The majority of them involve finding or fetching an item and giving it to someone, in the name of having a nice chat with them. It does this knowingly too, with a very early puzzle having you fetch some fertiliser from a box. A box in the room of boxes. You’re forced to click on every single bloody box until you find the one with fertiliser in it. The game is taking the piss, but I don’t really mind, as each box contains a little joke.
That said, there were times when I got a bit stuck later on in the game and found myself frustratedly clicking on everything in hope of finding something that would let me progress. Thankfully, these times are few and far between and when they do happen, just take a deep breath, calm down and go and talk to a piece of toast, or to EDDIE the cross-dressing AI.
What the game lacks in movement or graphical detail, it makes up for in ‘clickiness’. Each screen is bursting with stuff, all of it waiting for a nice click, which will reward you with a clever bit of word play or throwaway joke. Perhaps the best way to understand the game is in this – there are bookshelves in almost every room of the Underhome (the home of the The Mysterious Druid that is facing foreclosure following the financial crisis in the Fortunate Isles), all completely stacked. You’ll find titles like ‘The Alchemical Properties of Gloop’ by Dr Blurg Schnurgleglarg next to ‘Prometheus Unbound’ by Percey Shelley, or ‘Green Grass, Running Water’ by Thomas King. It’s like a five year old with a degree in comparative literature.
So, despite all the silliness, the game has something to say. The plot revolves around the Underhome going into foreclosure as a sinister Lord uses the debt crisis to impose his will on the citizens of the Fortunate Isles. Wells are being privatised, lighthouses are being sold off and goons are stamping all over carpets. Sound familiar? Jonas Kyratzes, the games creator, is well aware that hard truths are best delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek. He’s also not one to shy away from political discourse (the game is peppered with references to G K Chesterton, Marx and communism). As such, he’s made a surprising game full of allegory, politics, philosophy and talking moose.
It’s a court-jester who throws shaving-cream pies rather than custard. Because in these times of austerity, who can afford custard?
The Sea Will Claim Everything is available to buy direct from the developer, DRM free right here: landofdreams.net. I liked it and if you are in roughly the same demographic as me, you might too!