App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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All of my family vacations growing up were camping trips. Looking back on them, they presented opportunities that threw the normal rules of society out the window and allowed everyone to just be themselves in a tiny, self-constructed universe. Wide Ocean Big Jacket is a narrative adventure that captures this feeling perfectly and with a sense of humor and sincerity that you don't often see in games, particularly mobile titles.
Wide Ocean Big Jacket is essentially interactive fiction. You play as (or otherwise observe) four characters as they spend the night at a drive up campsite. These campers aren't your typical nuclear family, band of friends, or scout troop, though. Instead, the game centers on teenage couple Mord and Ben as they go on their first outdoor adventure together with Mord's outdoorsy Uncle Brad and Aunt Cloanne.
The game aspect of Wide Ocean Big Jacket generally just involves walking up to or shifting the game camera to points of interest--usually other people--to initiate dialogue. When active, the colorful scenery that initially sets the stage for interactions fades away to a dialogue screen that highlights what people are saying, most of which revolves around the personal relationships that are changing and growing over the course of this trip.
Connect with nature
There isn't much more to Wide Ocean Big Jacket than just initiating dialogue sequences, but that works to its benefit. The game has some superb writing, and some of its underlying themes hinge on the fact that camping trips tend to be sort of aimless adventures where the only things to really do are enjoy your surroundings and the people you have around you.
It also helps that Wide Ocean Big Jacket sets up its story to feature somewhat unexpected relationships. This makes even more mundane conversations between characters more complicated and nuanced that you'd expect. All throughout, Wide Ocean Big Jacket also allows for these characters to show their personalities in a way that is both charming and endearing.
A short hike
Wide Ocean Big Jacket isn't a terribly long game, but that's also for the best. The story is best experienced in a single sitting, which is definitely reasonable to do in the hour or so it takes to complete. Just like the characters in the game are coming together for a brief shared experience, you as the player get an equally brief window into their lives.
The mobile version of this game is definitely playable, but that's mostly because there isn't a whole lot of complexity to the game. There are times when you need to steer characters around in an environment, which requires using pretty clunky touch controls, but there's no reason to really need super precise control in this game, either. This is to say that it would be nice if the game felt a little better, but it doesn't impact the overall experience all that much.
The bottom line
Wide Ocean Big Jacket is an immensely enjoyable and refreshing narrative adventure. Every aspect of it--from the writing to the game's length--feels perfectly tailored to capture the feeling of a group camping trip, and that attention-to-detail is what makes it an absolute must-play.