Scuba The Submersible's Ocean Odyssey was among Play NYC 2018's many VR titles. While last year's venue presented considerable space concerns for playing VR games, the Hammerstein Ballroom had plenty of places with ample space for us to move about in the virtual world. I ended up chatting with one of the developers late in the day on Saturday about their game and made a point of going to see them sometime on Sunday.
This game with a long title is an excellent choice for the medium of VR. Players control a UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle) by the name of Scuba. You're tasked with cleaning up all sorts of garbage that sits on the ocean floor, and Scuba is the tool through which you'll do it.
I patiently waited for a young girl to finish her time with the game before I stepped into the provided space for the player. I politely asked Avolve Innovations' Aaron Effinger to keep a close eye on me as I was rather concerned about my large wingspan causing collateral damage; something that was certainly a valid concern since I landed a few errant hits on some furniture while checking out VR title The Llama Express with my colleague Robert Grosso.
I've used VR before, but this was my first time playing with the Oculus Touch controller. It felt very responsive in my hands and much lighter compared to the first-generation Vive controllers that were ubiquitous throughout the other booths in the convention. A short tutorial was meant to brief me on the game, but an error in audio mixing resulted in a barely audible voice. It also didn't help that the headphones built into the Oculus Rift didn't quite fit on my gigantic Slavic head. Thankfully, Mr. Effinger explained things to me and I got on my way.
A meter at the top of the screen represented how much garbage you had to clean up. Movement was controlled with the left thumbstick; pitch and yaw were controlled by turning your head in VR. I was not particularly fond of having to turn my head in order to change Scuba's direction, especially because I was particularly concerned about knocking something over. Thankfully, I later learned that controls for pitch & yaw were being implemented on the right stick for future builds.
Scuba The Submersible's Ocean Odyssey had more to it than simply picking up bottles on the ocean floor. I discovered a particularly large chunk of garbage that I couldn't seem to dislodge. Mr. Effinger explained that I would now have to craft a water cannon in order to break it up and free a sea turtle that was trapped within. I was guided back to my underwater base where I had to place a few nuts into a mostly-constructed tool, one of which had fallen underneath the device after much fiddling. Once I was done, my water cannon replaced the grabber on my right arm and I zipped back over to the trapped sea turtle.
A high-powered blast of water was enough to break up the trash and free my little ocean friend. This scene is an unfortunate reality for some ocean creatures out there—Scuba The Submersible's Ocean Odyssey definitely has a strong environmental message in it. As the demo came to a close, I was asked to look up by the developers. My last moments in the game were the vision of a boat passing overhead and dumping a barrel of toxic waste right into the area I just cleaned up. Man, what a way to end on a dark note.
After I was done, I chatted with Mr. Effinger about what Avolve Innovations planned to do with Scuba The Submersible's Ocean Odyssey in the future. The completed game will feature thirty or so different levels and a good bit of crafting. This was one of a handful of games with an educational slant that was actually engaging and entertaining. Heck, I could see something like this being used in real-world ocean cleanup in the future.
Avolve Innovations hopes to partner with one or more of the various charities that work their butts off to clean up pollution and protect ocean wildlife. No matter how that plays out, they certainly have an interesting title in the works. I enjoyed my time with Scuba and I think most young kids will probably get a kick out of this game. Be sure to swing by Avolve Innovations' website and follow them on Twitter to keep up with all of their latest developments.
What do you think of Scuba The Submersible's Ocean Odyssey? Does a game where you clean up the ocean in VR appeal to you? Let us know in the comments below! Check out what else we saw at Play NYC by going to our Play NYC 2018 Coverage Hub.