Review: Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect Doesn’t Get Away with Anything

Review: Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect Doesn’t Get Away with Anything

I don’t like visual novels. They’re usually not fun or entertaining for me. They don’t have enough choices for my liking, and I often find that they’re poorly written, or riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, often due to the fact that their platform allows them to sidestep the traditional editorial process of a longform narrative. Consequently, I am not generally the person to review them here. I do, however, love a good bit of gossip, so when I heard that the game Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect had been rejected by Valve for their Steam platform, well… I had to at least look, right? (more…)

Review: Create a New World and Do it Over (and Over) Again in Mythic Ocean

Review: Create a New World and Do it Over (and Over) Again in Mythic Ocean

After an apocalyptic vision of the universe ending, you awake and find yourself swimming in an ocean with no memory of who you are. You meet a cryptic eel named Elil and are taught that this is all going according to plan: every time the world ends, everything resets into this place and must start again. Elil prods you into meeting the other aquatic creatures of this ocean, suggesting that they are actually gods and that one of them will have dominion over the new world. The catch is that none of them are aware of that. With your own role and fate in question, you must befriend and indirectly influence this underwater pantheon to shape the creation of the next universe.

Mythic Ocean

Paralune LLC
January 9, 2020

Mythic Ocean is a visual novel with free-roaming exploration. You swim through the waters and talk with one NPC after the other to resolve their problems. Through the dialogue choices you make in these conversations, these characters may interact with each other, and you have direct influence over their lives.

For example, Amar—the unrestrained, energetic, sea-otter-like god—prods you to check out the Moss Cavern, a dark, small cave most are unfamiliar with. In the Cavern resides Lutra, a small, larvae-like god with a very mechanical but childlike thought process. Lutra expresses fears of going outside and has been having trouble in satiating its constant hunger. When you go back to Amar to discuss what you discovered, Amar offers a new plant that Lutra can feed upon, and how you deal with the events right after can develop in multiple ways. Referred to as Fables in-game, these are basically quests you can complete with varying outcomes in order to progress. You can either help these characters find themselves and create new friendships, or cause pandemonium and tense feelings amongst them. Ultimately, whoever likes you the most at the end of the game will be crowned as the god of the new world.

An orange otter-like creature with four arms and a black, triangular pattern bands around its neck hovers against a black background. A circular, cropped frame of a watercolor illustration of fish and kelp appears to the side of the creature. A text box below reads, "Amar: The kelp's always a lovely sight, swaying gently in the water..."

A cavern with plant-like structures glowing across its uneven surfaces. The image is all greens and blues, and the lights glow a soft yellow.

You swim through different locations in order to reach out to these characters, and each god has a main location they primarily reside in. With the Teleporter, a portable device your character carries, you can easily jump to the main base of each god to cut time swimming from place to place. In addition to the Teleporter, you have the ability to use Sonar, which helps detect where NPCs are as they move about.

There is no real item collecting in the game, but you will find pages across locations that are keys to your past and possibly future. These pages do not serve much mechanical purpose, but they contain excerpts of a greater mythos, referring to a Creator which may be referencing one of the gods of the previous cycle of the world or the one to be theoretically throned in the next. They are used like currency to fulfill specific quests. After you hit certain milestones, you will be alerted to subtle changes that occur in the ocean, such as unlocking more pages to find.

Mythic Ocean explores themes in mythology, creationism, and humanism. It frames its story through water’s connection to life and death, akin to the role of water in both Hyrule’s destruction and revitalization in the Legend of Zelda games. Through your engagement with its characters, the game funnels you into tender, psychological interactions with difficult choices. You have to figure out how to balance satisfying someone’s needs at the potential risk of hurting another, while none of them have foreknowledge of their eventual fates.

A room filled with pottery. A triangular doorway stands at the top of a set of stairs in the room's center. The room is lit with a soft, monochromatic blue. The words, "Moss Cavern", glow orange in the distance.

A blue dolphin. A text box underneath reads, "Flip: My flips are sick and I am a delight? Why thank you!"

Returning to the earlier example between Amar and Lutra, a potential outcome from that scenario is that Lutra will amass in size and start eating up the Kelp Forest where Amar resides. At this point, you already know Lutra has been mostly functioning on innocent instinct and is basically an infant. However, it is clearly destroying a whole ecosystem in the process of wanting to feed itself. Some of your options may ride on being empathetic to Lutra at the cost of hurting Amar, or to help Amar by being harsh on Lutra and preventing further destruction. What is goodliness next to godliness?

There are streaks of darkness within joy, and the threats that fester but are deemed necessary within the underbelly of the cosmos slowly reveal themselves to you. Elil has been cast out for reasons that are not explicit at first, and there are surprising twists that add an eldritch flair to Mythic Ocean’s lore. The game invites multiple playthroughs to change the final outcome of who becomes the Creator, and the in-game explanation of this cyclical process is both encouraging and sinister.

In hindsight, Mythic Ocean can be compared to a game like Subnautica, another exploration game taking place in an ocean. Unlike Subnautica, in which your agenda in a spacious, vast open world revolves around surviving the dangers it offers, Mythic Ocean is tighter, restrained, and set in a less threatening space that encourages meditating. As said on Mythic Ocean’s own Steam storefront: “No death, no combat, no failure.”

Both games, however, convey this thin line between accuracy and etherealism, in which many elements of aquatic life draw from reality, while other aspects are intentionally alien. Although some gods in Mythic Ocean bear some semblance to real animals, others have no direct analogy. Amar appears to be a type of sea otter at first, but they have multiple limbs. With eccentricities like these, the mysteries of the pantheon, and the rigid rules of the universe make Mythic Ocean engrossing. (In fact, there is no hint as to what exactly your character looks out throughout the game. No one really comments on your appearance, and the only initial impressions you get are that you are an unfamiliar face to this ocean.)

A blue mushroom against a black background. A text box below reads, "Spark: There's dark places out there, but don't be afraid."

A scene along the bottom of an ocean's sandy surface teeming with seaweed and rocks. A cluster of sea worms are popping out from the sands further into the frame. The sand is a soft tan, and the sea and rocks are rendered in blues.

You’d have to play Mythic Ocean multiple times to see the whole story, and this selling point is where the game’s weaknesses lie. The only means of saving is through an autosaving trigger that is benchmarked at points the game considers to be chapters. This is not at all efficient for many familiar with visual novels of a similar nature, where flexible saving is a necessary mechanic for easy replay. After multiple playthroughs, deep exploration gets less enthusing when the Teleporter is just there to use when it feels like you have seen just about everything. Recycling the same NPCs over and over again can get repetitive, and the urge to discover is less enchanting.

Overall, Mythic Ocean is a stunningly charming game that translates familiar concepts into something that is immersive and unique. The game is aesthetically simple but still lovely, with sharp dialogue that nails character motivation and psychology in wholesome, accessible ways. It has just enough to make the world feel full and encourage multiple playthroughs, but it walks the line of being too barren and repetitive. But fans of mythology and players keen on meditative games should dip their toes into Mythic Ocean’s lore—they’ll likely find the calm swim enticing.


Review: Simulacra 2 Is More Silly Than Spooky, But Still Intriguing

Review: Simulacra 2 Is More Silly Than Spooky, But Still Intriguing

Detective Murilo suspects foul play in the mysterious death of social media influencer Maya Crane. Fearing the response he might get from his colleagues for his outlandish theories on the case, he enlists the help of the player instead. Risking his position, he compromises evidence and assigns you, playing as either his protégé or a thrill-seeker in search of their next big scoop, to investigate Maya’s phone. It doesn’t take long for you to discover that the circumstances around her death are not only beyond strange, but potentially paranormal. (more…)

SuperEpic Is More Innovative Than Epic: A Review

SuperEpic Is More Innovative Than Epic: A Review

In SuperEpic: The Entertainment War, RegnantCorp is the one video game company left behind after a series of hostile takeovers and mergers across the world. A huge enterprise run by a literal monopoly of greedy pigs, RegnantCorp is bent on mind-controlling the masses with its intrusive products. Responding to a mysterious distress signal, Tan Tan the raccoon and his llama steed prepare to invade RegnantCorp headquarters to end the company’s tyrannical rule once and for all.

Review: Pokemon Masters is a Gotcha Game

Review: Pokemon Masters is a Gotcha Game

Gacha games, games focused on acquiring collections of characters through random pulls, have become synonymous with the mobile market. Much like the toy collections from vending machines they are named for, gacha games draw in huge amounts of money for relatively low cost as people try to collect them all or look for their favorites. (more…)