#421 Seaman

Posted: 13th February 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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845th played so far

Genre: Life Simulation
Platform: Dreamcast
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Vivarium/Jellyvision
Publisher: Sega

It’s quite difficult to play Seaman these days. It was only released for the Dreamcast and needed a specific microphone that could plug into your controller and play. These are difficult to find, so you need to use unofficial workarounds to be able to play.

Even after we sorted something for that – using a microphones that probably didn’t work quite as well as the game expects – it was a lot more complex to actually see a lot of the game, as you need to play bits every day to advance. We finally did, so we can catch up on this write up.

Our Thoughts

A game like Seaman is fundamentally incompatible with the way I play the games for this blog – I want to binge a game, get into it deeply for a while, rather than spreading it out across time as other games come knocking. Luckily, you can always change your console’s date and play ahead that way, so that when your Seaman, the fish the game is named after, is done with you for the day, you can jump ahead. And you’re doing plenty of that – while you can get your Seaman to an adult state in less than a week, it requires you to do the right things each day, which I didn’t always feel was obvious. I used an FAQ to find it and even then wasted some resources because my fish didn’t need the food yet.

Once I goth there, it became interesting to interact with the different ages of the fish. They weren’t great at listening – which might be part microphone quality and part accent, but the game also is less liberal in what it listens to, compared to what you expect. Again, it’s not quite clear what you need to do each day, so I keep hoping I got that right. When it works out, you get to have an interesting conversation with a snarky but curious fish with a man’s head.

The other part that drags it down is the maintenance needed in the system. Each time you come back, you have to manage the temperature and oxygen levels, as well as feeding your Seaman. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t have an influence on anything other than stopping you from interacting with the fish when you start and to provide a reason for its demise if you don’t check in for a few days. It’s useless, and busywork in a game that doesn’t need it.

Final Thoughts

There is something genuinely fascination about conversing with your Seaman. Even if it’s constrained by what he knows and is willing to talk about, it is a lot of fun to follow. It’s sad that this is hidden behind a lot of busywork, several days of getting your fish hatched and several more where you need to teach him until he is willing to speak English. I think that if it were made today, we could have had more faith in the conversation system, and that’s what would have really paid off.