Let me be clear: being a 13-year-old absolutely, 100% sucked. The hormones, the acne, the growing pains. No one looks fondly back on their middle school days; we hide from them, blushing when they are brought up.
Wide Ocean Big Jacket, the most recent project from Turnfollow, does the impossible and shows those retched years as a time of discovery. It reminded me that yes, I once was a smitten, geeky 13-year-old, and yes, it was one hell of an exciting time.
In Wide Ocean Big Jacket, you bounce between Cloanne and Brad, who are taking their niece, Mord, and her boyfriend, Ben, on a camping trip. Gameplay is simple, and you switch between the four characters as you complete tasks such as unpacking or setting up the tent. The gameplay is purposeful in its simplicity, as the focus of the game is clear: its characters and their stories.
While Brad and Cloanne are both tremendously written, and there is a lovely bit about their relationship and its history, the true stars of Wide Ocean Big Jacket are Mord and Ben.
Mord is outlandish, saying whatever comes to her mind, no matter how awkward or inappropriate. Ben could not be more different. He is visibly anxious, his posture slumped and his eyes aimed toward the ground. But when they are together, there is so much giddy, so much young love. It is remarkable how authentic their voices are, especially when you consider the difficulty of writing such young characters.
To give away too much would be to spoil the many wonderful moments. But there are moments between Mord and Ben that are as nostalgic and heartwarming as I can think of, not just in video games, but in media as a whole. It revels in its childlike sense of adventure, giving you the butterflies that you know are swarming in Mord and Ben’s stomachs. Playing this feels like reminiscing with an old friend, sharing those memories that seemed so formative at the time.
While it can be completed in one sitting (it took me a little more than an hour), Wide Ocean Big Jacket can not be dismissed as some frivolous experience. It is a simple story, sure, but it’s a universal one. It’s a story of love and friendship and exploration, and I simply cannot recommend it strongly enough.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 | Reviewed on Nintendo Switch