Have you thought about exploring the ocean? Putting on scuba gear and heading out to photographing fish? Reef Shot will let you do just that with a little bit of adventure to go along with the swim. So put “Under the Sea” on repeat we are taking a trip to a tropical paradise in the Pacific Ocean.
In Reef Shot you play as Scott Burton, a man who traveled to California seeking fame and fortune as a cameraman. Instead fate made him a wedding photographer. Looking to change his life Scott learns to scuba dive. Which brings him in contact with Renée Santone. Renée is a biologist at the University of California who has been tasked with researching the marine life off the coast of Robinson Crusoe Island. She hires Scott to be the team’s underwater photographer.
Your adventure begins innocently enough, taking photos of the lavish sea life. Until you come upon an ancient Mayan ruins. The ruins tell of the lost treasures of El Dorado. Soon you find yourself not only exploring and photographing the sea life, but looking for what could be the find of the century.
Controls and Gameplay
Reef Shot employs both keyboard and mouse controls, and gamepad controls. Both styles worked well covering movement and photography. The photography is your main mode of gameplay. You'll swim to check points and then photograph specific things. Usually it begins with a fish swimming around the check point. Renée can see what Scott sees, so while you are looking around she will comment on, or guide you to, your next subject for photographing.
The “cameras” you will use during the game will vary. Each one has a different level of quality and method for taking pictures. You start with a simple point and shoot camera; it’s easy to use, but takes the lowest quality photos. The next model that has a better quality auto-focus, but you have to give it time to focus. The last camera will give you the best quality, but the focus works like a mini-game. A needle, indicating the focus, moves back and forth rapidly across the screen, to get the best shot you have to snap the picture at the right moment.
The quality of your photos is important because you earn stars for each photo on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. These stars can then be used to purchase perks such as extra air for your tank, extra film for your camera, side quests, and help finding your main subject.
Graphics and Sound
Reef Shot has a realistic graphic quality that gives you a good feeling of what it’s like underwater. The fish swim with realistic motions, the ruins have a well worn look, and there is a murkiness to the water that gives you that feeling of diving.
The sound effects are solid, nothing seems out of place, and the voice actors add to the experience. The music is relaxing, giving Reef Shot a of calm almost Zen-like feeling to the game.
The underwater adventure game has it's own small niche in the gaming realm. Games that give the gamer no weapons what so ever but still have a strong sense of adventure. I know of maybe a dozen of these type of games and I probably own most of them. So when I heard about Nano Games’ Reef Shot I was very curious. It is a fun game with a lot of good things going for it, but it also has some flaws.
They nail the feeling of being underwater. From the murkiness, to the sounds, to the slight drifting in the underwater currents when you try to stay still; it all makes for a great setting. The underwater environment are spot on. The flaws come in with the gameplay and story. Both seem to have a good foundation, but never seem to fully develop.
It is a very linear story. Renée will have you taking pictures of fish, then you spot some ruins. After a few shots of the ruins you’ll move on to the next checkpoint where she is back to talking about the fish. It’s like she has completely forgotten the ruins she was so excited about just a few moments ago.
Locked in with this linear-ness is the fact that, for a game about exploration, you really don’t get to explore a lot. There are invisible walls to keep you from wandering too far away from the area of interest and a rushed feeling as your air tanks deplete. The ability to “buy” more air using stars helps with that, but you are still limited to where you can go and what you see with the air you have. Lastly the fish, they swim in patterns. On one hand it’s helpful for capturing photos, but on the other they show no reaction to you, the diver, that has just invaded their space.
One of the biggest things this game could have benefited from is a free roam mode. Because the game has no violence to it, it would be perfect for children if you could wander and explore while having Renée give facts about the fish and plant life. It’s something they touch on in the gameplay, but just don’t quite follow up with.
Reef Shot is a beautiful relaxing game with a lot of potential, that never quite reaches its mark. It feels like a first foray into a game that could develop into something more. I would like to see what Nano Games does next. I give Reef Shot a 3 out of 5.
Reef Shot is not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), but for a general rating idea it is rated by the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) board as "PEGI 3," suitable for all persons.
For more information seethe Reef Shot web site.