planktOs is an underwater puzzle game where players take control of different tropical fish to free crystalized spirits. There are four types of fish available, each with a different skill. Players travel around a giant reef to free spirits, encountering other creatures such as sharks, manta rays, and urchins.
Release Date: February 3th, 2016
Developer: Blot Interactive
Publisher: Blot Interactive
Format: PC Game
First playthrough time: 1 hour
- Beautiful world
- Simple yet multi-step puzzles
- Movement controls are limited and unresponsive
- Camera angle has trouble when intersecting the environment
- Graphical performance had issues
One of the first things that attracted me to planktOs is the colorful underwater environment. Players travel through a tropical reef filled with seaweed, anemones, urchins, and schools of smaller non-interactive fish. I enjoyed the full vertical feel of the surroundings and the light reflecting on the underside of the water. Unfortunately I had to turn the graphics quality down in order to play the majority of the game. Framerate in the game was poor compared to what my computer normally runs, but I was still able to enjoy the scenery.
The main gameplay of planktOs involves controlling four fish types and using their special abilities to solve simple puzzles. Abilities include producing light, eating urchins, swimming against the current, and safely traveling through anemonas. The targets of each of the abilities are well marked with color coding so the player doesn’t have to figure out what needs to be done, just the order to do it in. Given the large areas of the puzzles and how easy it would’ve been to miss things among all the colors, I’m glad the puzzles were straightforward. Having simpler puzzles allowed me to spend more time enjoying the environment.
The main issue I had with planktOs was the controls. WASD is use to move the character while the mouse changes where they’re looking. The WASD controls felt laggy, which I can only assume was an attempt to mimic motion through water. But whatever realism they were going for was lost when they gave the fish the ability to backup straight. There was also no way to directly move vertically, so to go up and down I often found myself trying to look really far up and then move in a seesaw or spiral. This was slow and annoying with the laggy controls. To make the controls worse, the third person camera had a hard time orienting itself when near rocks (which are everywhere). In order to not intersect them, it would move around in ways that changed which way the player was moving even if they were trying to just hold forward. Often the camera would fly really close to the character or even through them in ways that were doubly disorienting when the character was now on another trajectory. Furthermore if the character hit the rock, they sometimes would bounce off at a strange angle. I found these factors to be frustrating and I was constantly overshooting where I wanted to stop or getting my camera “thrown around” if I swam too close to a rock.
Overall I found planktOs to be a simple relaxing puzzle game with colorful underwater graphics. Unfortunately it’s troublesome controls detract from its peaceful feel, but given the length of the game it doesn’t take too much stubbornness to make it through. I played through the game in an hour, but if it had been 5-10 hours I probably would’ve called it quits. Still I think that players drawn by scenery and whom can be patient with the controls will find this an enjoyable game.