Just diving for pictures of fish.... Or am I?
Reef Shot is an underwater adventure game that follows the story of a small research team out of the University of California. By small I mean two people, with the occasional input from a professor who's off site throughout the game's campaign.
Our story begins quite simply - diving for pictures of the underwater life that inhabits the waters around Robinson Crusoe Island. At first, nothing is out of the ordinary. There's beautiful tropical scenery and marine life swimming about and the occasional wreck from World War 2, but eventually our hero stumbles upon something out of the ordinary - ancient Mayan ruins swallowed up by the ocean. With the help of Professor Hernadez, our tiny team sets off on an adventure to discover the mysteries hidden by the sea.
Players take on the role of Scott Burton, a freelance photographer. Like many protagonists from gamings past he is the strong silent type, never saying a word even when his partner in crime, Renee Santone, says things that really need a reply.
My only real complaint about the story is how abruptly it ends. One second you're chugging along, reaching the end of your investigation, the next you get a little bit of narration and credits. I would've liked to see a much smoother transition from reaching the end goal to credits rather than the sudden slam on the breaks that this felt like. The journey was still rather enjoyable however.
We must dive deeper! Using only the finest in underwater camera equipment.
Gameplay in Reef Shot is fairly straight forward which is made obvious in the tutorial level. Players swim around underwater, following waypoints to the general area where their current target is located, or where something interesting might be. From there, players take pictures of whatever they're currently after, whether it be fish, long lost wrecks, or ruins from an ancient civilization that nobody noticed laying about their island.
As players progress in the game, taking pictures is made increasingly more complicated with the addition of higher quality cameras. I'm not quite sure why higher quality cameras make taking pictures more difficult, but it gives the player something to do besides seeking their targets. The waypoint system only takes you to the general vicinity things will be after all!
Pictures are rated on a five star system. The initial cameras only allow players to take three star pictures, but it won't be too long before they have the chance to take five star shots with the more hands-on, higher quality cameras. The higher quality pictures a player takes the better, each star is added to a counter which can be used in a magical and convenient store which I assume is operated by the gods of underwater photography, since all purchases simply appear on your character with no need to go and pick them up. The only odd or misleading thing about this system is that it's called a Perk Shop. When I first heard this I assumed I was levelilng up my character, but this wasn't the case. Players can take the stars they've earned from their amazing photography skills and spend them on vital things like more film, precious oxygen or a waypoint to tell you just where that sneaky fish or ancient relic decided to hide. There are also bonus objectives that for some reason requires the player to activate them by purchasing the bonus objective option whenever it is available, rather than popping up with exploration.
The drawback that Reef Shots gameplay has is that there's really not much of variety when it comes to what a player can do. Exploring the depths of the sea and taking pictures is about all their is to do. There aren't any puzzles to solve or any real danger to face throughout your investigation of the ruins. I was actually disappointed when my constant nagging of sharks incited no reaction - all of my poking attempts ended up with me swimming through the shark. My only fear was running out of oxygen and having to start a level from the start again, and I only ever came close to running out of oxygen because I refused to use the Perk Shop's assistance in finding things. Yeah, I know, I'm hardcore.
The sights and sounds of the sea.
Reef Shot may not have the latest and greatest graphics out there but it was still very easy on the eyes, although I would still love to see it using more advanced graphics. The only way I can think of to describe the way the game looks is that it's like having your very own fish tank that needs no maintenance and is more than big enough for you to swim in! I actually enjoyed taking in the underwater sights that Reef Shot offered, especially once I started investigating the Mayan ruins. It gave them an eerie and mysterious beauty, even if there was no danger involved at all. Over all the game feels incredibly relaxing and I'm starting to think that this might be the point!
The soundtrack as well is also incredibly relaxing. From the very first level you will feel like you're off on a tropical vacation rather than doing research for a university. There was one point where the music was incredibly misleading though. I think it was in the second level where players had to go look for a missing beacon in a trench. The music became dark and moody, and I was excited to see something try to scare me. Instead I found some fairly interesting Mayan ruins which made up for it.
Should you go for a swim?
This was an interesting adventure to say the least. I went into it not expecting much, unsure as to whether I'd enjoy myself. By the end of it I felt like I had just taken a small vacation scuba diving in some far away tropical island with all sorts of interesting ruins.
So if you're looking for a game with adrenaline pumping adventure under the sea, avoiding traps and hungry sharks while occasionally solving puzzles this isn't the game for you. On the other hand, if you get an odd, relaxing vibe from watching the trailer and generally enjoy sight seeing without having to stress over much of anything, then Reef Shot is a great game.