SeaBed is available for purchase on Steam for $19.99.
Two women, Takako and Sachiko, live a lavish lifestyle of taking vacations to various places and experiencing all that life has to offer. Or do they? Bound together by love, the story soon presents a tale from multiple characters' perspectives, including Sachiko, Takako, and Narasaki—a friend of both characters, but more prevalent in Sachiko's eyes. Things outside the realm of possibility begin to take shape when mental health begins to falter for the main couple, resulting in shattered memories, realistic delusions, and a very confused reader. Whether better described as a mystery or a psychological thriller, SeaBed does all that it possibly can to throw the audience through every misshapen loop possible.
As a kinetic journey, there are no branching paths or character-specific routes and endings. The story is a straightforward shot that will be presented the same way to every person. There are no choices to make, no reason to revisit, and only additional content in the form of "Tips," which offer side-stories to the main one as extra depth and material. The game is already one that has roughly thirty hours of content, so to go from point A to point B in one way may seem daunting to some who wanted a more player-interactive experience. It reads far more like an actual novel in this capacity than those that take advantage of technological capabilities. In some manner, this visual novel becomes more recommendable as a literal visual novel, and nothing more.
Writing within SeaBed is generally pretty heavy. Lots of psychological analyses and theories are presented as possibilities for the characters' conditions and oft-times drowns out human conversation for robotic explanations. To some degree, there's an issue of lacking relatability when characters simply offer aid through advanced psychological experimentation instead of general love and support, and much of the dialogue revolves around just that. If not that, small-talk and very general character info shows through with the pace of a semi-truck pulling into a parking lot. There is a phenomenal level of detail shown through in-text, with characters' actions, surroundings, and mindset being not only clear but almost too clear for the reader to absorb. What there isn't enough of, I feel, is genuine personality when it comes to many of these characters, which shine through in more than just their ideals and capability to understand themselves. One can read about how Takako turns on her car's blinkers, twice, in the span of a few lines, or we can cut the fat and quicken the pace some.
Though there is some merit to the slow pace, with the essence of life passing by slowly when we realize it and quickly when we don't being almost symbolic of the events that pile on as the novel continues. These seemingly mindless actions—Takako turning on her blinkers, Sachiko making small talk with co-workers—correlate into an atmosphere of life that fuels our sense of reality that undermines entertainment value for a believable setting, designed to make the reader comfortably unsuspecting. And yet, to read close to thirty hours of (relatively) normal days spent in tensile tranquility, one would benefit from being easily immersed. SeaBed offers some variety of plot twists or cliffhangers, though it chooses its moments as scarcely as one would choose their next dentist appointment.
To add insult to mental injury, based on the situations shown, I don't feel Sachiko and Takako have a lot of romantic chemistry. Sachiko is incredibly mild-mannered, and almost stuck-up in her lax range of emotional feedback. Takako plays more like a wild-child, with her impulsive persona leading the two into all sorts of zany situations. Perhaps the saying that opposites attract works wonders here, but I don't see it. The two only seem connected by a mutual need for companionship, as Sachiko is actually rather harsh with her in most cases; more motherly than lover-ly. To be fed that these two people are so attached to one another that their realities seem to bend to the will of one another seems a little too far-fetched. That emotional compatibility comes under question, and a lot of the fabric behind the game's drawing point becomes harder to take seriously. The attention to detail is already somewhat dull, this could be a back breaker.
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. That is the extent of gameplay one will find here. The visual in the visual novel will transform with the rhythm of the clicks, but not to an enormous degree. Text will display in a storybook manner down the screen, with every paragraph giving the appropriate spacing for the next. It only goes away to show characters' sprites changing/animating, or when the scene transitions to another location or perspective. Split up into chapters, the specific character's perspective will take the shape of what one chapter will be trying to add to the overall story.
There isn't much else to say. One can either go through the main "campaign" or rummage through the "Tips" section for more background story on the characters shown throughout the game. A straightforward reading that won't change for any particular person aside from what it all means in the end, but the most it'll affect the reader physically is through sore eyes and an ever-flinching index finger.
Graphics & Audio
As previously mentioned, the art design of SeaBed is by no means the level of Sakura titles. Its imperfections almost give off an amateurish charm that adds to the fragile coat of reality the game paints for the reader to consume. Expression is also limited to a few facial differences—and body perspectives—in normally-sequenced scenarios. There are various points throughout the story where certain situations get an HQ overlay that intensifies the mood, many times featuring two or more characters interacting with one another. Otherwise, backgrounds consist of screenshots of real-life locations faded with a watercolor-esque filter. This creates a somewhat dreary depiction of reality—once again adding to what the novel tries to embody—that isolates the characters from their surroundings, as readers have to assume proper imagination to fill in the details. Sometimes characters' anatomy is off, which takes some getting used to. Sometimes the characters look fantastic, but that's more notable with Narasaki than anyone else.
I also quite like the game's use of soundtrack, with lots of piano pieces and relaxing vibes almost similar to The Sims. SeaBed's opening theme, which plays upon booting up the game, sends chills down my spine and immediately creates a tone of what one should expect going into this visual novel: bittersweet sensations. While the visual art leaves much to be desired, the orchestral art, which effortlessly drowns one in a pool of blues, makes up for the misfortunes of the eyes and brings peace to the ears. It makes all the reading more tolerable, the dialogue more uplifting, and the silence more alarming. To play SeaBed without the sound is like cutting off one's dominant arm and expecting them to perform tasks at the same efficiency. The thought is one that's laughable for its lunacy.
While not as riveting as it wants to be nor as emotionally-lasting as it tries to be, there are more good qualities than bad to be found at the bottom of SeaBed's complex labyrinth of perspective and companionship. Fighting off the urge to sleep, a struggle shared by our main protagonists, is a genuine threat for those not fully motivated by a slow-going and intricately-devised narrative structure. Fortunately, the emphasis of its craft supported by a great soundtrack and a wide variety of semi-interesting characters makes for a fulfilling and memorable experience when all is said and done. The only sacrifice made should be one's heightened expectations upon discovery; the answer feels as bittersweet as the debut screen.
|+ Great soundtrack||– Dry dialogue|
|+ Heaps of detail for psychological enthusiasts||– Payoff doesn't match the build-up|
|+ Foreshadowing 101||– Main couple has little chemistry|