Beyond Home and Further Down


Mateusz Skutnik might not be a name that is familiar to many, however, it is one which’s shadow towers over the early days of online flash games. Sole creator of the Submachine series, his games were quick to carve a niche in a time when the algorithm had yet to dominate our taste, and people looking for new adventures and clever puzzles were ever so grateful. After the original installment released for free in 2005 as a simple locked room style puzzle game, the series was quick to grow a cult and a steady supply of expansive but equally free sequels followed, proving the dedication and skill of Mat remained singular in an ever-expanding market.

While the acceleration of trends and fads seemed ever to increase in the age of digital content, the consistent release of Submachine games throughout the ensuing decade was always a pleasant surprise until the series concluded in 2015. Now a relic from a time which seemed never to settle, it seems like the world is already so very different from what it was back then.

That is at least my perspective on Mr. Skutnik, however, recently one new release was to drastically change this vista. Suddenly a new game by the maestro appeared on Steam: “Slice of Sea”, a completely new and independent story and with a price tag that matched any regular indie game, two completely unprecedented features. Immediately I became curious, and the intriguing screenshots and positive reviews bestowed on the Steam page did little to curtail my interest, so naturally I had to explore this newfound creation and learn of the lone Seaweed’s journey to return home, and what an adventure it turned out to be.

In a world where the setting and scene invoke the epic and futurist style of Mobius, meanwhile, its inhabitants remain quirky curmudgeons far more native to the pen of Tove Jansson, you are but a humble alga on mechanical legs. There is no incongruity in this strange plane of existence, where we as spectators are just as alien as the seaweed is on the mountaintop. It is a surreal tale where we find the esoteric wearing the cloak of the mundane.

The architecture of old European towns and ancient Himalayan temples meet and mix across spans of wide open planes and industrial cities. Antiquated contraptions litter the background while futurist technology blocks your path. Trains, steamers, cranes and motors lie rusted and immobile, waiting for you to salvage what remains functioning while haunting sounds and dismal airs fill the landscape. Glass chimes and untuned pianos accompany despondent drones while a throbbing rhythm sets the pace for a gloomy journey. A kaleidoscopic context to recognize, merged with impossible geometry and peculiar beings.

There is never giving any explanation for these circumstances, and as wonderful as one might consider the worldbuilding to be, the game seems to eschew any form of exposition. This can at times seem rather oblique; why can’t you interact with any of the persons you meet? Are we ignored or just hidden? Well, that’s not truly important, we remain in the background throughout and have to use our own imagination to interpret the foreground. Slice of Sea is one of the few games which takes great care not just to build up its world as an aesthetic conglomeration, but also aims to depict the society which appears within. Scary and foreign in many ways, yet as recognizable as a dream.

Now let us return to the Seaweed, our protagonist. A lone plant that finds itself far from home and we have to help it back, that’s it. Its design and simplicity is reminiscent of such classics as Machinarium, while the puzzles of turning machines on-n-off with codes and tricks remain familiar to all fans of Submachine. You are taught early on that the mouse pointer moves independently from the creature itself, and so it is the player themself who is the one to fix all and any problem, while the creature simply moves along on its merry way.

There seems to be an emphasis on openness in the gameplay, which might seem at odds with the standard of point-n-click games. Normally, the layout of an area is designed to be very close, so the tools to the solution are never far away from the problem you need to fix, but in Slice of Sea, some clues can be hidden all over the map and crisscross between new and old areas.

This can at times contribute to a feeling of being “truly lost”, especially when you are near the end and missing two bits to a code, and you don’t know if it is right behind you or at the other end of the world. However, when it works and you’re just rolling along it makes a lot of the puzzles flow in a very organic manner. It adds a certain sense of smoothness and continuity to the areas, giving the breath of the pacing an unusual sense of width.

While that is one ambivalent feature, there are still a few things I do think actually mar this otherwise solid experience. These are not negatives that deride the game but are still substantial enough to point out.

When at first you are nearing the end of the initial area, the clandestine “tutorial” level, I feel suddenly the frames become much too crowded with artifacts and relics, which serve no purpose for progress and distract rather than compliment the game. A good point-n-click game needs to strike the right balance between having a neutrally composed frame, while also making it obvious what the puzzle is and what elements are at the player’s disposal to solve it.

Slice of Sea breaks this balance very early on and completely conflates the key items for progress and the otherwise useless décor, and I fail to see what lesson it should have demonstrated going forward. It is not as much a red herring as a whole blue whale of unnecessary complications and I can only imagine the headache it must cause new players.

Another thing that bothered me was the ending. Now, I would first stress I do not intend to spoil nor do I want to squabble with the author’s intention for the story. It is overall still the world which is the focus of our exploration, and the narrative is really just an appendage. However, I still felt the final scenes broke hard with the misty and ethereal tone the game had worked so hard to establish, and instead concluded with a cutscene which seemed more in line with the old Rayman games.

This is just a minor niggle and likely very subjective, but I thought it could have been wrapped up in a manner more consistent with the general atmosphere of all that preceded it.

Slice of Sea is still a wonderful culmination of so many years of artistic integrity and pioneering work by a man who by herculean efforts made himself a part of gaming history, a wonderfully personal and thoroughly distinct artistic vision. Each frame containing the most carefully composed art and the most fluid animation. Altogether a most astounding gem to discover.

[source: Dasein Con Amore]



Slice of Sea review on adventuregamers.com


I’ve spent eight hours with Slice of Sea, drinking in its otherworldly landscapes, mingling with its bizarre inhabitants, carefully digging through its environments to figure out my next steps, and I still feel basically helpless to tell you about it. It’s such a singular experience that there’s hardly a basis for comparison. How to explain that this dialogue-free journey through a watercolor dreamscape—the staggeringly complex work of solo developer Mateusz Skutnik—is one of the best adventures of the year? The only way to do it justice, I fear, would be to take your hand and walk you through scene by scene, pointing at all the little things that make it work and periodically looking over to go “See? See?!” Absent that possibility, I hope you’ll take my word for it: this is a one-of-a-kind excursion into a strange and fascinating world like you won’t find anywhere else, and even with a few caveats it isn’t to be missed.

You’re a sea creature in a mechanical suit that lets you walk on land, and you’re wandering through a vast, sandy region full of decaying train cars and dormant machinery in an effort to get … somewhere. That’s all the setup the game provides you, and you’ll get no more context for it until the very end. Promotional materials name our protagonist Seaweed, but even that information is superfluous to the experience; you are who you are, you’re where you are, and there are things to do around you. The game trusts you to figure out the rest.

You control Seaweed using a simple keyboard/mouse setup, with the arrow keys or A and D moving you left and right along the horizontal plane, the up/W key (or spacebar) dedicated to jumping and the down/S key letting you enter doorways and passages. Your mouse cursor is shaped like a fancy pen nib, shifting to an open hand when you hover over a hotspot. Occasionally a particularly inscrutable hotspot will come with a caption to explain what it is, but more often than not the cursor change is all the indication you’ll get. Right-clicking opens your inventory, from which you can drag objects to use in the environment. Interestingly, Seaweed doesn’t have to be physically near or even able to access a hotspot for you to interact with it via the mouse; if you, the player, can see it on screen, you can click it or use an object. This means that, movement aside, you’ll sometimes feel less like you’re playing as Seaweed than as an omniscient observer helping them out on their journey.

Seaweed’s world is big, open and lonely, and each screen gives the impression of a once-bustling world whose gears have long since come creaking to a halt. Everywhere are crumbling mechanisms and stilled engines; beached ships, derailed train cars and busted machinery dot the landscape, long-abandoned by whoever it was that once maintained them. Sand is everywhere, gumming up the works and slowly obscuring the borders between civilization and wilderness. People live here—or creatures that resemble people—but most of these are wanderers too; those few who appear at home where you find them seem nonetheless suspicious and anxious. Something happened here, and the game never comes close to explaining what it was; still, the more you explore the more you’ll find yourself feeling that you’ve almost grasped it.

The environments have the style and character of a forgotten picture book. The thick lines and exaggerated dimensions of the backgrounds are reminiscent of Gahan Wilson, while the bizarre characters with their feathery brushstrokes and impressionistic watercolor features might have been lifted from Quentin Blake’s nightmare journal. Every space, no matter how apparently deserted, feels alive—like you’re simply passing through somewhere that once played host to other stories and will continue existing long after you’ve left. The sublimely haunting score by The Thumpmonks hangs over everything, seeming to embody and express both the barrenness of the dunes and Seaweed’s own loneliness. Synth tones like whistling sea breezes mingle with forlorn chimes and keening train whistles, while certain tracks call to mind a forgotten Victrola record, with croaking horns backed by whispering percussion like distant rain. (That’s to say nothing of “Let Me Go Home,” the superb end-credits song by Cat Jahnke.) Unsurprisingly, the soundscape is equally superb, bringing the vast locales to creaking, windblown life as you pass through.

Huge and lonely it may be, but the setting is anything but empty. A varied menagerie of strange beings lurk in the rubble and tumbledown settlements; some are hominid, like the sad-looking goblin people who pace aimlessly and avoid acknowledging you, while others seem more animalistic, like the scuttling hairballs who peer out at you from the shadows. Still others are totally alien, like the winged, spidery beast who leers at you with a human face. The character designs are all inventive and unexpected, and the total absence of context or explanation adds a depth and breadth to the place that lengthy expostulation couldn’t. Seaweed may or may not know why, for example, giant whispering nautiluses float watchfully overhead in so many places, but either way it requires no comment—that’s how this world works, and it’s beyond any one person (or wide-eyed sea creature) to explain.

Every screen is loaded with details whose functions you puzzle out by clicking. The game is 100% dialogue-free, with the only legible text appearing when you hover over items in your inventory and certain (but not most) hotspots. On those few occasions where you receive instruction, it comes in the form of pictographic diagrams. As much as it expects you to learn by doing, though, the game is very rarely inscrutable; on occasions when I gave up and consulted a walkthrough to figure out what exactly I had to do next, it almost always turned out to be because I’d overlooked a detail that was hiding quite prominently in plain sight. This wasn’t always the case—a few necessary objects struck me as having been hidden much too well—but if you take your time and really give your surroundings a good once-over, the puzzles turn out to be quite intuitive.

Many of these are inventory-based; Seaweed has an unlimited capacity for item storage and the environments are littered with objects to collect, so at times part of the challenge comes from sorting through your hoard to figure out what, if anything, is relevant. Much of what you can pick up turns out to be useless detritus or shiny, optional collectibles, but soon enough you’ll begin to get a sense for what’s important and what isn’t. Oftentimes an object’s name will clue you in to where you should use it: you might not realize, for instance, that a particular background structure is pertinent until you find something whose name evokes it. It’s immensely satisfying to piece various clues together and then to suddenly understand the context that unites disparate elements, or to realize that some visual detail you’ve passed a hundred times is the key to progressing further.

Many obstacles require figuring out how to operate arcane machinery; as with the other puzzles, you’ll have to experiment. Some machine parts only activate if Seaweed is physically near them; others have multiple moving components that you’ll need to work all at once. Still others have complex and untraditional locks that will only open once you’ve entered their combinations. These can involve noting down symbols you observe around the game world, collecting certain items to place in an incomplete display, or occasionally manipulating visual arrays into configurations you’ve discovered elsewhere. As with the inventory puzzles, divining the solutions means paying attention to your surroundings and being observant on every screen; as long as you keep thinking about what you see, you’ll find the game has given you what you need to move forward.

And how much moving you’ll do! Slice of Sea’s world is enormous, with a staggering number of distinct screens to explore, and you’ll traverse every inch of it several times over. It’s good, then, that Skutnik minimizes what could have been a daunting inconvenience by giving Seaweed a brisk walking speed and providing an incredibly helpful teleportation system. There are fifteen waypoints scattered around the landscape, each of which has to be brought on-line with a click. Once you’ve found one, you can use it to immediately travel to any of the others you’ve previously located. They’re distributed in such a way that, while you’ll still have to do some trekking, manual travel is so greatly reduced as to become hardly noticeable after a while. There’s even an item you can find that lets you teleport to any waypoint no matter where you are, making a user-friendly process even easier.

Unfortunately, not all travel is this straightforward. As mentioned, this is a game where—apart from some early on-screen prompts to explain the controls—you’ll have to figure out how things work on your own. One rule that’s never explained, however, is that places where you can travel “north” (i.e., go through an open doorway, gate, or passage in the middle of the screen) are marked by waving banners bearing a cryptic rune. Sometimes the exit is so obvious that the extra signage isn’t necessary, but in other places there’s nothing to indicate that there even is an exit. More than once I wandered back and forth, at a total loss for what to do next, only to finally look up where to go and realize that a seemingly noninteractive vista was a pathway to whole new swathes of the world. This happened several times before I belatedly noticed the flags fluttering over each of the exits I’d missed and realized what they signified.

Thankfully this is an ultimately minor issue in a game that otherwise does a fantastic job of drawing you in and beckoning you further into its world. Even after saying all this, I’ve only managed to scratch the surface of what makes Slice of Sea so special; words are ill-suited to describe something that seems in some ways to exist beyond them. Such abstract storytelling won’t be to every player’s taste, of course, and the lack of direction may be a difficult sell for some. Still, the exploration and puzzle-solving are so engaging, and the world so vividly realized, that anyone who gives it the chance it deserves will find an uncanny experience like few others out there, and one that will stick with them for a long time.

Our Verdict:
Slice of Sea sets you loose in a gorgeously illustrated dreamscape and trusts you to figure out what needs doing along the way. Its lack of direction won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you long to get lost in beautiful otherworldly surroundings, you won’t want to miss it.

4.5/5

The Good:
– Stunningly beautiful hand-drawn art with unique character designs, wonderfully strange creatures, and evocative sound design
– A huge world to explore with lots to do
– Beautiful, haunting score with an excellent end-credits song
– Puzzles are well-designed and rewarding to figure out
– Teleportation system makes traveling easy while still preserving the vastness of the world

The Bad:
– Some important visual elements are easy to miss, especially screen exits
– Incredibly abstract and un-straightforward in a way that may turn some players off

written by Will Aickman — 24 Jan 2022



Slice of Sea – interview for gamespark.jp


Please introduce yourself.

My name is Mateusz Skutnik, I create games, mostly in the adventure puzzle point and click genre. I’m also a comic book writer and artist, and those two branches of my creativity just met in my newest game, Slice of Sea.

What is your most favorite PC/video game?

I think if I had to pick just one… It would be Journey by ThatGameCompany. This is the shining example why games can be real art.

Why did you start developing this game?

I was creating games for 15 years in Adobe Flash, and once they decided to end Flash support I moved to another game engine in 2016. This allowed me to create a game for Steam, which meant I had to pull all my strength and abilities together to create something unique for my Steam debut.

What is/are interesting/unique in the game?

This game in it’s entirety was drawn on paper using ink and nib. It took me 4 years to finish creating the game (2018-2021).
Uniqueness comes from my comic book drawing style, just take a look.

Whom would you like to play this game?

People who like adventure games and solving puzzles. This is a point and click game with a slight twist in that you use keyboard to move game’s main character and mouse to solve puzzles.

What kind of people is your target?

Anyone with a keen eye for unique graphical design, strange worlds and even stranger creatures. I know my games are played by people of all ages, from small children up to 70 year-olds.

Is the game inspired by any other games/movies/etc.?

The game is derived from all my previous works. My other game series – Submachine, Daymare Town, and my comic book series: Revolutions, Blacky, Morphs…
I just took everything good I created in the past and smashed it all together to create this game.

(If not yet) Do you have a plan to support the Japanese language? If you accept fan translation, who should we contact?

Japanese is already supported. You can change language in the main menu settings.

Has COVID-19 affected the development?

Not really, since I’ve been working at home since 2009. I also work alone, almost entire game, with the exception of music is done by me personally.

Is it okay to stream the game and monetize it? (on YouTube, Twitch, etc.)

Yes, of course!

Please leave a message for Japanese readers.

Hi guys. You can play my game in Japanese, and in my opinion Japanese version looks the best of all languages, mostly thanks to Kanji font used in the game, it matches the drawn and inked spirit of the game.

 

~~~~

 

ポイント&クリックパズルADV『Slice of Sea』―ペンとインクで描かれたグラフィックで4年の歳月をかけて完成【開発者インタビュー】

気になる新作インディーゲームの開発者にインタビューする本企画。今回は、Mateusz Skutnik氏開発、PC/Mac向けに11月11日にリリースされたポイント&クリックパズルアドベンチャー『Slice of Sea』開発者へのミニインタビューをお届けします。

本作は、プレイヤーが海の生き物「シーウィード」となってプレイするポイント&クリックパズルアドベンチャー。アイテムを集め、パズルを解き、シーウィードを故郷の海へと戻してあげるのが目標です。すべて手描きのグラフィックが特徴。日本語にも対応済みです。

――まずは自己紹介をお願いします。一番好きなゲームは何ですか?

Mateusz Skutnik氏(以下Mateusz)主にポイント&クリックパズルアドベンチャーといったゲームを作っている、Mateusz Skutnikです。私は漫画家でもありアーティストでもあります。これら2つのクリエイティビティが出会い誕生したのが、本作なのです。

もし好きなゲームを一本選ばなければいけないとすれば…thatgamecompanyの『風ノ旅ビト』ですね。ゲームが本物の芸術になり得るという、素晴らしい見本だと思います。

――本作の開発はなぜ始めたのですか?

Mateusz私はAdobe Flashを使って15年間ゲームを作っていました。そしてFlashのサポートが終わることが決定すると、2016年、私は別のゲームエンジンに移ることとしたのです。これにより、Steam向けのゲームが作れるようになりました。と言うことで、Steamでのデビューに向け、私は自分の持つあらゆる強みと能力を結集させることとしたのです。

――本作の特徴を教えてください。

Mateusz本作のグラフィックはすべて紙の上にペンとインクで描かれています。完成までに4年(2018年~2021年)かかりました。特徴は、私の漫画を描くスタイルそのものに出ているでしょう。ぜひその目でご覧ください。

――本作はどんな人にプレイしてもらいたいですか?

Mateuszアドベンチャーゲームとパズルを解くのが好きな人に遊んでもらいたいですね。本作はポイント&クリックゲームですが、キーボードを使ってメインキャラクターを操作し、マウスでパズルを解く、と言うひねりが加えられています。

また、ユニークなデザインや奇妙な世界観、そしてより変なクリーチャーたちに興味がある人にも遊んでいただきたいです。本作は、小さな子供から70年代の方まで、あらゆる歳の方たちに遊んでいただいています。

――本作が影響を受けた作品はありますか?

Mateusz本作は私の今までの作品すべてを起源としています。私の作ったゲームシリーズである『Submachine』『Daymare Town』、漫画シリーズだと「Revolutions」「Blacky」「Morphs」などですね。過去に作って良かった物を集めてくっつけ、本作を作ったのです。

――新型コロナウイルスによる開発への影響はありましたか?

Mateusz2009年から自宅で作業をしているので、影響はそれほどありませんでした。また、私は自分の作ったほぼすべてのゲームにおいて、音楽以外はすべて私1人で完成させています。

――本作の配信や収益化はしても大丈夫ですか?

Mateuszはい、もちろんです!

――最後に日本の読者にメッセージをお願いします。

Mateuszみなさん、こんにちは。本作は日本語でもプレイ可能です。私の個人的な意見になりますが、本作は日本語版が他のあらゆる言語よりも綺麗に見えると思っています。おそらく本作内で使われている漢字のフォントのおかげですね。本作のグラフィックにまさにぴったりなのです。楽しんでください!

――ありがとうございました。

[source]



Slice of Sea


Slice of Sea is a peaceful adventure and puzzle game. You play as Seaweed, a sea creature clearly out of their element. Explore desolate world of dust, all hand-drawn on paper in unique art style. Collect items, solve puzzles and lead Seaweed back home to the sea. Music was created by Thumpmonks and main theme song written and performed by Cat jahnke.

steam store page | reddit | homepagetitle reveal

the mind spark that started it all… | Seaweed begins | pre-alpha timestamp

first ink sketch | atmospheric sketch | textured sketchesbackground sketches

p2019 | p2020 | p2021 | layering test | coloring test | ingame ink | bricks

 Seaweed inside | Final Atmosphere | covid-19 quarantine | wywh

biggest milestone | it’s done

main trailer | gameplay trailer  | release trailer | Let me go Home lyrics

Steam Windows release: 11/11/2021 | Steam macOS release: 25/11/2021

reviews: Dasein Con Amore, adventuregamers.com,

interview: gamespark.jp


itch.io release: 29/11/2021



It’s done


Beta: Oct 22nd 2021

approved by Valve: Oct 28th 2021



Slice of Sea biggest milestone


Yesterday I reached the most important milestone in Slice of Sea development, and I find it somewhat poetic. All puzzles are done and ready. That means entire gameplay is ready and the game is playable from start to finish. I’d say the game is 90% ready. Things still missing: intro, outro and some flavor graphics and non-interactable animations. I’m basically at the finish line, or the last lap to be exact. I can see the light at the end of a 4-year long tunnel. Time to get mildly hyped. #sliceofsea



Slice of Sea reveal trailer



steam page | reddit | homepage

This is not the best day in the life of Seaweed. One might even say he’s out of his element.

From the creator of Submachine comes the adventure of Seaweed, a mysterious character from Daymare Town.

This is a point and click adventure game. Everything you see in this game was drawn by hand on paper. Use keyboard to move around and mouse to solve puzzles.

Music was created by Thumpmonks and main theme song written and performed by Cat Jahnke.

This game is still in development, I predict it’s release to be early 2021, however the exact date is not set yet, as the game will be released when it’s ready.

#sliceofsea



Wish You Were Here




Final Atmosphere




Seaweed Inside


v2 [Jan 24th]:

v1 [Jan 13th]


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