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Oceans Below was a very early attempt at trying to promote the 3DO multiplayer as more than a gaming machine (a strategy that quickly proved to backfire) Produced by Software Toolworks, this was (surprisingly) one of the most heavily advertised titles released during the 3DO launch window of late 1993. Even more surprisingly, is that it is a polished entertaining product.
This “virtual underwater adventure” consists mainly of viewing full motion video clips of ocean life. Don’t let that scare you though, because it is actually done in a very nice way. A world map allows you to explore different oceans, and select a variety of dive locations in each one. Some of these are the Californian coast, the Hawaiian islands, the Caribbean, and several others are also included. In addition , the majority of these locations also include regional maps and sites for further exploration.
The fmv is not full screen and is slightly grainy, but it is very informative. Over 200 clips are included as the box proudly states. These range in length a few seconds, to a few minutes for some. Still pictures are included too, which is another nice addition. The audio descriptions are also very well done, whether it be describing the location of your dive, explaining different sea creatures, or giving diving tips. Good voice talent was used for this title, and all the clips are quite clear.
This title is extremely user friendly. You will be able to navigate your way through the options with no trouble at all. In addition to the main exploration on the dives, you can also get information on dive equipment, and view sea life common to each region (minus the fmv clips) The included treasure hunting game is admittedly gimmicky and very easy, but it still adds nicely to the overall package. History is given for each object, and even the occasional joke when you locate some junk.
One specific dive site that I must mention is ‘Truk Lagoon’. These murky waters in the South Pacific are full of sunken Japanese war vessels, human skulls, and talk of ghosts. This is the only site that deviates from the ‘Oceans’ emphasis on sea life, and it makes for rather curious viewing.
Can’t nitpick too much with this title. The music is very sparse, but what little is included I found quite enjoyable. The load times are long , but this is mainly limited to the beginning . A title of this genre (edutainment) may not have mass market appeal, but Oceans seems to know the audience it was shooting for. And yes it is a short (hence the short review), but the quality of the title makes up for its length.
I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this title. I played it all the way through to completion, exploring each individual site, looking at each and every creature, and finding all 68 treasures. It is attractively done, and quite relaxing (and educational too) Easily the best of the Software Toolworks edutainment discs in my opinion, this won’t win over those who aren’t a fan of this niche genre already, but those who enjoy something different can’t do much better than this title. Definitely worth checking out.
Last edited by Trev on Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:53 pm, edited 3 times in total.