Did you know that, each year, three times as much garbage is dumped into the ocean as the weight of all the fish caught worldwide? Chun Wah Kong, developer for Skoobie Games knows that, and wants you to know, too. Yes, games are games, and it’s fun to blow things up, slay monsters, and make virtual slam dunks. But educational games are a growing market too, and Kong’s ocean simulatortries to make you see the wonders of ocean life from the screen of your iPod Touch or iPhone. Blue Eden feels like playing an episode of Animal Planet’s TV show Blue Planet, with pretty much all of the positive and negative connotations that implies. A game meant to inspire people to save the planet’s oceans is great, but how effective is that message in Blue Eden?
This game puts you in control of a school of Power Blue Surgeonfish as you gather up to go to the mating ground. Each life cycle is called a “season,” and the first season comes complete with narration from an Australian-sounding fellow to tell you about the Surgeonfish and their journey. Each season consists of four phases: migration, feeding, predator, and breeding. Each season gets progressively harder, challenging you to keep your school alive as long as possible. Each section is a kind of mini-game of its own; feeding is a sort of match-3 puzzler where you grab food to keep your school alive, while breeding has you swipe groups of male fish arcade-style up to fertilize clouds of eggs. They’re each simple enough that even young children could play them, and you can tackle a couple phases in a quick five-minute break. The only phase I really had a problem with was the predator phase; even in training I couldn’t reliably perform the swipe maneuvers necessary to keep my fish from getting devoured. I tried time and again to get it right, but couldn’t help but feel that maybe there was an issue with the swipe recognition or timing window.
As a game, Blue Eden feels middle of the road, but it stands out as an educational tool. Playing through the seasons time and again grew repetitive and lacked challenge to me, and I really hoped that there would be new fish to play as and learn about (complete with Aussie narration), but at this time you can only play as the surgeonfish. But I have to admit I felt completely taken in by the environment the game created from the beginning. The visuals of the ocean floor and the various life floating around are gorgeous, and the soft, flowy music really made me feel like I was watching a show on Animal Planet instead of just playing a game. The game’s image gallery offers art mock-ups of various ocean life, and you can read in-depth information about the animals and the ocean there as well. Honestly, even just playing this virtual simulation made me feel a bit of reverence towards the oceans and the life they contained, which is quite the feat.
Blue Eden isn’t a game for hardcore gamers, but it’s a great title for ocean-lovers, kids, and those who want a break from conventional gaming. Check it out on the App Store for US$0.99, and read here for some great ways you can help protect our oceans.