Song of the Deep Review
Song of the Deep is the latest game from Insomniac Games, the geniuses who made the sublime Sunset Overdrive and the criminally underrated Fuse back on the Xbox 360. Unlike the aforementioned titles Song of the Deep is a smaller release that still manages to pack a punch while keeping you hooked with its charming story and locations.
Under The Sea – Song of the Deep tells the story of a young girl called Merryn, who is forced to build a submarine and search the depths of the ocean when her father fails to appear after going out fishing. Merryn herself narrates throughout the game and while the story isn’t the most original it is still very well presented. Although you can explore the vast majority of the ocean you are still penned in to specific areas, the rest only becomes available once you acquire specific upgrades which come later in the game. The ocean itself is a beautifully realised location full of exotic but deadly creatures. Manoeuvring the submarine is relatively straightforward and you can upgrade this as you go to make yourself faster and able to inflict more damage on any enemies foolish enough to get in your way. Some of the combat options are far more effective than others and if I remember correctly there were a couple of weapons that I never used apart from when I initially unlocked them. Combat is also very simple, with you either attacking enemies with a retractable claw or using torpedoes and their many variants. You’ll quickly dispatch enemies that cross your path but it would have been nice to have a little variation with your weapons, but it still feels very well done.
Deeplight Puzzle – Most of the puzzles in Song of the Deep are a simple case of locating and object and dropping it in a certain area however the deeplight puzzle is tricky to solve but a lot of fun at the same time. First of all you need to explore the whole of the ocean to find three pieces, once you have found them you can go to the deeplight area and start trying to solve the puzzle. There are six parts to the puzzle and each one uses a different variety of skills to be able to progress. Some are fairly straight forward and can be done in around 30 seconds whereas others can leave you scratching your head trying to work out what you need to do to progress. It is a very well balanced puzzle and easily the standout moment of Song of the Deep.
Ocean Drive – The last game I can remember playing that was solely set in the ocean was Ecco the Dolphin. I’ve played many games that have had memorable (and not so memorable) levels that were themed on water but nothing that really gives you the feeling of being immersed under the sea. Fortunately Song of the Deep delivers on this and that is in part due to the wonderful visuals and the amazing soundtrack. The ocean feels alive with detailed backgrounds full of life, although I did find at times it was a little difficult to see what was happening as the foreground also has a lot of debris which can obstruct the view. The soundtrack is also very well done and the narration by Merryn helps to really suck you in to the story.
Call That A Boss? – Song of the Deep has a couple of boss battles but they are probably the most disappointing part of the entire game. The first boss has promise but it very quickly disappears and turns into a simple game of waiting for the right time to attack. The next boss is actually the final boss and is even more anticlimatic. The fight itself is over within a couple of minutes and is an incredible letdown as it’s so easy it is almost not worth it being in the game. I know that the combat system is not incredibly technical but the boss battles just seem to be an afterthought which is a massive shame.
Unexplained Features – A recent trend that seems to be occurring more and more within the gaming industry is the removal of any ‘hand-holding’ that is normally used to ease a player into a game. Song of the Deep goes along with that and for the most part it works well, however there are some things that are not explained throughout the game that simply make no sense. The single biggest issue I had was that some of the core mechanics of the game are not explained at all and you are left to figure them out for yourself. Locked chests in particular drove me crazy. There is no conceivable way to open them, I couldn’t find a single key or use any weaponry or power to get them to unlock. The save points are fairly frequent however they are poorly placed and you often have to go through them to progress. This causes you to slow down which can quickly get annoying after it happens multiple times. Some sort of menu based tutorial would have solved this problem for sure.
Backtracking Bore – As fun as it is to explore the vast ocean there is far too much backtracking in Song of the Deep. I mentioned briefly in the section about the deeplight puzzle that it involves a lot of travelling across the map but unfortunately it is the same for almost every puzzle. You go to collect a new power-up or quest item from one side of the ocean then travel all the way back. This is pretty much the universal blueprint for the majority of the quests and soon induces a feeling of repetition. There are so many unique sections to explore and some of them are criminally underused while others you end up visiting multiple times.
Song of the Deep has a little bit of everything and for the most part it plays very well. It has a few flaws but this is still a delightfully entertaining game that will sink its hooks in and not let you go until the very end.
Song of the Deep was developed by Insomniac Games and published by GameTrust.. It was released on July 12th, 2016. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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