I crept out to the edge of a cliff; nothing in front of me but open water. The whales and sharks swimming in the background did nothing to calm my nerves. My little submarine seemed so small in comparison to the open ocean before me, and I wasn’t sure what dangers awaited in the trench below. With a deep breath, I turned on the sub’s headlights and accelerated downward.
Title: Song of the Deep
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Steam
Developer: Insomniac Games
Price: $14.99, $29.99 Collector’s Edition
You’re the Inspiration
Insomniac has teamed up with GameTrust to bring us Song of the Deep, a Metroidvania-style indie game. The game was inspired for the daughter of Insomniac’s Games Chief Creative Officer, Brian Hastings. He wanted to make a game with a strong female presence and to create a story fueled by love.
You play as Merryn, a young girl who has grown up around the sea. From a young age, her father has told her stories of what lies beneath the waves. When he journeys out to sea and doesn’t return, Merryn is determined to discover her father’s whereabouts. Determined to bring him home, she builds her own submarine and sets out to find her father. As Merryn explores the open ocean she discovers creatures and machines from the stories of her childhood, and she becomes a part of something much bigger.
Setting The Mood
This video game fairy tale has an amazing atmosphere. The use of foreground and background really make you feel as if you are surrounded by the ocean. The colorful, storybook-style animation combined with atmospheric music provides a totally immersive experience. There were points in the game where I would literally “ooh” and “aah” at the screen because the game looks so good. It is worth playing the game just to experience the genius of the animators and musicians that worked on the title. The art and music work so well together to alter the mood and tension of the game. When you first enter the ocean, everything is bright and beautiful with big, purple rocks and glowing kelp gardens and the music matches it perfectly. The same can be said for The Maw, the trench mentioned above. It’s dark and the submarine is dwarfed by gigantic whales and sharks in the background while quiet, foreboding music plays. I have never experienced a game that has made me feel so inspired, frightened, and hopeful just from the atmosphere.
Don’t let the storybook feel fool you. This game is massive and the puzzles are challenging. The player is free to explore as much as they want, and I often would get distracted exploring versus following the objectives. The player will also return to each section a few times to gain access to new areas after modifying the submarine with exploding magma or glass shattering sonar. You can also explore as Merryn herself. Armed with nothing but a coral knife, Merryn can explore sections of the map too small for the submarine to fit.
I really loved and enjoyed this game for the first 4-5 hours I spent with it. However, the smart, fun puzzles disappeared and were replaced by getting locked into rooms and fighting waves of enemies. Throughout the first part of the game, the enemies are more of an afterthought. They are there, but I feel like it was more focused on the puzzles and the story. One light puzzle, in particular, was a blast and I felt like a champ conquering it on my first try. Then, there is a hard turn towards the end of the game. Merryn is escaping a series of caves as she is being chased by Red Reapers. The game loves to remind you that you have no defense against these creatures; you can only run. I played this section of the game for over 2 hours. There was a glitch with the squids. Some squids could pull me towards them even if I was nowhere near them. To avoid broken controllers, I had to set it aside for the evening. I was only able to pass this part the next day when the squids were glitched again causing them to get stuck in walls. Also, my weapons (claw, bombs, etc.) were really picky about when they decided they wanted to work. From this point on, the game is pretty anti-climatic, including its final boss.
Other than the final boss at the end, a giant squid, you randomly fight one other boss at the beginning of the game, a sea spider. The spider was a fun, challenging boss, and I would have liked to have had more battles like that. When you watch the final boss rise from the deep, it’s slightly terrifying. However, the “battle” was such a letdown, I felt unfulfilled by the end.
*Review of Song of the Deep was provided by the developer
I won’t lie. This game hits you right in the feels. This is a story driven by love,and begs the question how far would you go for the people you love. In Merryn’s case, it’s to the bottom of the ocean. The games artistry, music, and narration had me close to tears at a few key points. I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the game. I only wish they had a clear definition of what they wanted the game to be. With such a hard turn from puzzles to strictly waves of enemies, the game lost it for me a little. It felt like a different game in the last couple of hours, and I missed the game I had started six hours back.
In the long run, I feel like it is definitely worth playing for the experience. It is a beautiful game, with a good story, lovable characters, fabulous music, and there’s still so much more to discover in Song of the Deep.
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