Cascade Game Foundary's Infinite Scuba is a scuba diving simulator, but you don't need to have a whole lot of diving knowledge to enjoy the game. In fact, one of the many things this game does is teach you some of the science and logistics of scuba diving. Simple things like keeping an eye on your air supply gauge, how to keep track of the boat, and even how to handle dive problems like gas narcosis. When players find animals and artifacts, or complete set tasks in the water, they unlock Knowledge Rewards that tell them more about the wildlife, history, culture, or environmental issues connected with the dive site.
The fascinating thing, from a diver's perspective, is just how well Cascade were able to translate the science and physics of diving into a video game. Moving in water (especially as a scuba diver) isn't quite the same as movement in any other space. You've got quite a bit of water resistance, and the three-dimensional orientation of movement underwater can be a bit tricky. Managing Director of Cascade Game Foundry, Kathie Flood, at the diving convention Beneath the Sea this year, she assured me they had to put quite a lot of work into the Unity engine to get it to do what they need. "We basically had to build it all ourselves," Flood told me while clicking on a soft sponge to bring up a corresponding information screen.
After all, its not like there are many scuba games out there. 505 Games and Giant Squid's ABZU is about the only one to come to mind, at least in terms of recent releases. And ABZU was a puzzle game that just so happened to be underwater, rather than a diving simulator game. So Infinite Scuba has the benefit of being something rather unique.
The game's visuals are a little outdated, especially when it comes to the diver out-of-water bits, but that's okay. Because diving is all about how great things are underwater, and that's where Infinite Scuba is at its best. All of the locations, wildlife, and gear exist in the real world, because Infinite Scuba is definitely a proper simulator game. The development team even works with local dive professionals to ensure that the dive sites are replicated with as much authenticity as possible. Of course, dive sites are living environments and are subject to weather patterns, so some things do change. However, the Infinite Scuba versions of those sites are as faithful as they can be in a digital format. Oh, and they've partnered with the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) and over 20 dive equipment manufacturers to ensure the gear looks and behaves properly in the game.
However, because of the Knowledge Rewards and Cascade's emphasis on teaching players how and why to protect the underwater environment, Infinite Scuba exists in that teaching tool/ simulator crossover space. To add to that element of the game, Cascade Games Foundry partnered with National Geographic's Explorer-in-Residence and founder of Mission Blue, Dr. Sylvia Earle to ensure the accuracy of the environmental information presented in-game.
The only thing about Infinite Scuba that isn't a direct representation of diving IRL is the fact that you can fail a dive in Infinite Scuba. As Flood said, "in real life, there are no failed dives. But in the game, you have a total number of dives that will be different from your number of successful dives, because you can fail them." Mostly, you fail a dive in Infinite Scuba by missing an objective or running out of air. When you fail, the game gives you tips on how to do better in the first place. So its a little bit like having a pocket dive instructor. Just without the mountains of spare gear, the smell of salty neoprene, and the bad scuba puns.
Honestly, Infinte Scuba is a great way to explore the sea from the comfort of your own home, all without getting wet. As a dive pro, even I can appreciate that, though mostly I'm caught just trying to enjoy the scenery and ability to swim alongside sharks. As a gamer, its got enough unlockable content and stunning visuals to keep me entertained. Though, my general love of diving does help out quite a bit there.
The game is available now on Steam Early Access. I totally recommend checking it out. Here's a glimpse of the game in action from the Steam Early Access launch trailer below.