Why Am I Dead At Sea Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Why Am I Dead At Sea Review



As a fan of old Raymond Chandler’s movies and the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I can imagine mystery novels being the hardest thing someone can write. There are so many obstacles: you have to conceal the true culprit’s identity until the end while leaving constant clues throughout the story. The writer would have to be concerned if they were showing too much of their hand, or not enough to make it fair to the reader. Whodunnits are one of my favourite genres, and the oft-forgotten scenario needs a massive revival in our industry; this game, unfortunately, will not start the revolution.


Alton confronts Marcurio in his immaculate kitchen.

Why Am I Dead At Sea’s overly-descriptive title reveals the main idea of the storyline; You wake to find yourself dead, and as a ghost with amnesia you must try to put together the pieces of the past. There are nine other passengers and a cat on board the cheap transport ship, all of whom can help in your journey through ghostly possession. Once under your control, you can use their connections or special abilities to seek out the clues you need in order to solve your murder.

I have a lot of respect for the designer, Patrick McGrath, who built most of this game by himself. He wanted to tell a deep and emotional story with a claustrophobic and judgemental tone. The story deals with sickness, mental illness, and our daily deceptions; all while trying to figure out who the killer is. I was impressed at the amount of work and ideas put in by one man but was ultimately disappointed by the lack of polish and execution.

Gameplay consists of flying around and utilizing each character’s unique dialogue options and special ability to discover new clues. Some characters have awesome abilities; like being able to look into other passengers’ pockets, detecting vocal deceit and spotting hidden passages. However, most of the other characters’ abilities are worthless; calling the cat to you, taking pills to make the screen fuzzy or being able to look through keyholes (when your ghost can already just go into any room). This for me, is a real heartbreaker and makes some characters feel useless; just characters you have to use to ‘unlock’ the ability to possess other characters.

The characters for the most part are interesting, all of them have unique traits and interesting backstories. I did feel connected to them and wanted to push on in order to understand them better. This is probably the best part of the game; weeding through the characters’ lives and discovering who they really are, and what makes them tick.

It’s in those moments where you’ll be thoroughly engaged in the unfolding narrative from multiple points of view, each of whom could be the killer. In the other times, however, you’ll be running around frustratingly switching between bodies and sweeping the ship looking for the one event you haven’t activated yet. This wouldn’t be so bad, given a lot of mystery games have this flaw- but some of the action doesn’t even make sense.


In your ghost form, you can help passengers like Darryl overcome their past.

I spent an hour running around the ship, possessing every character, attempting to discover whatever it was that was holding up my progress. There was a locked diary I needed to open; I knew the key was in a box full of stuff. I couldn’t get it with the owner of the book, the one who put the key into the box, or even someone who knew they were looking for the key. I had to retrieve it with someone who wouldn’t know what the key looked like, what it was for, or why they would even want it.

On a game based so heavily on the story, you’d hope there wouldn’t be so many logical inconsistencies. As a ghost, you’re reminded constantly that you can’t physically interact with your surroundings; you can’t open drawers, but somehow you’re able to read pages in a book or passports hidden in those same dresser drawers. You can read the passengers’ thoughts, but they never change, regardless of the situation. The conclusion is sadly just as ridiculous, and will leave several gaping plot holes wide open for you to try and fill.

The art design doesn’t come across as a choice but as necessity of limitation. It’s easy to see the game takes inspiration from Earthbound, but its tone doesn’t match up with the visuals. The game jumps between stunning layered and scrolling backgrounds, and a ship that looks like it was designed in MS Paint. There’s simply not enough polish here, and the lack of variety makes the game feel even more repetitive and uninspired.

The sound design is a standard collection of bleeps and bloops, but several music tracks are impressive. The OST ranges from cute, electronica to an awesome fast-paced tune that terrifies and electrifies the listener. I did enjoy the music, but it did get repetitive in my long sessions of trying to figure out what dot I failed to connect. It was made even worse when the music would double and sometimes triple over itself, causing a feedback loop that would make my ears bleed.

Sadly, the game is riddled with glitches. I was yelled at by people who weren’t in the room I was exploring. Dialogue options sometimes just stop the conversation, leaving you feeling like you’re reading a book with missing pages. The Steam page also says it’ll support controller mapping, but I was unable to do so. All this might not have been so bad, except I was kicked out of the game three times while playing, something most wouldn’t anticipate from a 2D game. Hunched over a keyboard, replaying the last twenty minutes of a crime drama will really get on your nerves.

I hate writing bad reviews like this, especially when I was so anxious to get my hands on it, but the best word I have for Why Am I Dead At Sea is ‘unfinished’. Its ideas and setting is a great setup, and with some more work could’ve paid out really well. Unfortunately, we’re looking at a game that’s more of a chore than actual fun, a game that left me bewildered as I tried to figure out the game rather than the mystery. It forces you to play a game of connect the nonsensical dots before arriving to its unsatisfying ending(s). There are some commendable attempts however, so I hope the game’s designer keeps pushing forward because there is some promise in his work- but this one falls way too short of its own lofty goals.