In the PlayStation’s early days, Artdink released Aquanaut’s Holiday, a “non-game” that attempted to present a non-linear, non-violent, open-world ocean experience. It’s a nice idea, later more fully realized in Arika’s Everblue and Endless Ocean series, but in the first year of the PS1, “ocean exploration” meant a flat blue space with a blocky, foggy sea floor and somewhat mystifying controls. Tail of the Sun, an uncategorizable hybrid of caveman sim and open-world adventure offers up an only slightly more game-like experience.
It’s conceptually interesting – offering up a huge, completely open map with day/night and weather cycles, not to mention hidden secrets like aliens and stone circles. Your goal in this big, primal world centers on eating and hunting to build up stats and advance your tribe, until you can take down enough mammoths to build a tower to the sun out of their tusks. The open map is one of Tail of the Sun‘s more redeeming qualities. Neither the deepest ocean nor the highest mountain are off-limits, but the dangers in your way emerge more from the controls than the untamed land. Movement is awkward overall – the run button brings you gradually up to speed and skids to a lengthy stop when released. Your character tends to stick directly to the angle of a slope instead of standing upright on inclines. Swimming is rarely successful, usually resulting in a gravity-defying leap peaking in a peculiar, arms-flailing float.