Slice of Sea review on Hey Poor Player

Slice of Sea Review: If you’re looking for me, you better check under the sea.

I am once again opening up a whimsical hand drawn point and click adventure article by restating my love for Machinarium. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. But I’ll change it up a bit by saying something bold and unprecedented — I may have found a new yardstick by which to measure this genre. Shocking, I know, but Slice of Sea managed to do it. My only hope is that I can artfully articulate what exactly “it” is.

Developed and self-published by solo indie dev Mateusz Skutnik, Slice of Sea is succinctly summed on its Steam page as a “peaceful adventure and puzzle game.” Available on Steam for $24.99, Slice of Sea has players taking on the role of a lonely little sea creature named Seaweed looking for their way home. Painstakingly hand drawn by Skutnk and featuring mystical music by Thumpmonks complete with a hauntingly beautiful theme song composed and performed by Cat Jahnke, Slice of Sea will pull players in with its captivating aesthetics and inviting gameplay.

Slice of Sea opens up on Seaweed, an inquisitive little sea creature who has been somehow separated from his friends and family back home. Using a sort of specialized mech suit, Seaweed is able to walk on land, traipsing through abandoned trains, dark tunnels, and sprawling cityscapes in an effort to be reunited with their kind. Of course, it’s not as simple as punching an address into a GPS and just following the directions; instead, Seaweed will have to solve a slew of puzzles to make their journey home successful. Can you help Seaweed uncover the mysteries of this world in an effort to return to their own?

Let’s talk aesthetics: Slice of Sea is subtly stunning. The hand drawn animations are lively and constantly moving in a lifelike, mesmerizing fashion. It’s hard to tell if the scenes are above ground or below the water’s surface at times, but I’d say that makes it all the more enchanting. There is so much excitement and detail going on in each scene that every environment feels new, no matter how many times you’ve walked through it. Paired with an ambient but expressive soundtrack that serves to heighten the entire experience, Slice of Sea looks and sounds spectacular.

As for the puzzles, Slice of Sea has some of the best puzzles in the entire genre, hands down. Instead of putting items together to MacGyver some sort of inexplicable tool that only makes sense after it’s been created, Slice of Sea merely asks players to be observant and inquisitive. Every time Seaweed enters an area, there’s an obvious path followed by a few not so obvious ones, each with items to collect or place in their proper spot. Feel like you’ve hit a dead end in one area after collecting a bunch of items? Start backtracking a few scenes (made easier by a plethora of fast travel points) and you’ll realize there’s an entire world you missed just by turning left instead of right. The joy in Slice of Sea comes from exploration and experimentation, where progression is incremental — yet constant — but always fun.

While playing Slice of Sea, I couldn’t quite get a sense for the universe’s logic. One setting certainly seems like it could be above ground, but hiking a few scenes to the right uncovers an area that is definitely under the sea with nary an elevation change between the two. Sometimes metal shrapnel floats, while other times it adheres to the laws of gravity. Gigantic mollusks hover just on the horizon, while birds still need to flap their wings to get airborne. The major things made sense, but the details had such an air of mystery about them.

I think that’s what I loved most about Slice of Sea, surprisingly even more than the glorious aesthetics and intuitive exploration-based puzzles. Seaweed’s world is a feast for every sense, but something about it felt almost enchantingly impossible. At multiple points in the game, I found myself holding my breath for fear of the nuanced magic being blown away by a careless sigh. There are not enough words in my vocabulary to accurately depict how spellbinding Slice of Sea genuinely is, its genius design invoking a sincere desire to explore a mystical world with laws and logic I comprehend on a practical level but fail to grasp on a conscious one. Of course, that’s part of the charm — I want to understand how to move through this world but wish to remain blissfully ignorant of its ways so that its magic may always endure.

I have but one complaint — its story (or, rather, its ending). Everything else about Slice of Sea is simply perfect, but its story ends rather abruptly without any real warning. They say life is a journey, not a destination, and Seaweed’s journey was a literal joy to experience, but any sort of context during that time that would have tipped me off to how Seaweed felt about going home or how they were closing in on familiar territory would have made for a smoother transition. A small complaint, surely — one that shouldn’t stop anyone from getting this marvelous game.

Slice of Sea is phenomenal in practically every regard and should be used as a case study for the genre going forward. The way it so brilliantly rewards observation and exploration in a manner that naturally calls to our childlike curiosity is a literal joy to experience. As I struggle to eloquently conclude this review, all I can think of is repeatedly shaking the shoulders of each reader and exclaiming “get this game, get this game, get this game!” Slice of Sea is absolutely one of my top five titles for 2021, and if you love this genre, I’m confident you’ll agree with me.