Song Of The Deep

EDGE - - GAMES - Devel­oper In­som­niac Games Pub­lisher GameTrust Games For­mat PC, PS4 (tested), Xbox One Re­lease Out now

PC, PS4, Xbox One

This gear-gated bed­time story is the lat­est of a re­cent slew of in-house pas­sion projects from heavy­weight stu­dios. A ten-hour un­der­sea fa­ble about an in­quis­i­tive and re­source­ful fish­er­man’s daugh­ter who builds a rick­ety sub­ma­rine to res­cue her miss­ing fa­ther, Song Of The Deep was in­spired by cre­ative lead Brian Hast­ings’ de­sire to cre­ate a pos­i­tive role model for his own daugh­ter. Mer­ryn is cer­tainly that: hope­ful, coura­geous and im­pres­sively hardy. Alas, a sim­i­lar com­bi­na­tion of un­blink­ing op­ti­mism and re­silience is needed to fin­ish her game.

For the most part, Song Of The Deep is con­tent with be­ing pleas­antly un­re­mark­able. Its aquatic set­ting never quite feels au­then­ti­cally hand-crafted, and it never in­spires the sense of awe sug­gested by a lovely but over­wrought sound­track, which swells over new dis­cov­er­ies that rarely war­rant such swoon­ing.

As you head to­wards the next glow­ing X on your map, you’ll in­vari­ably bump into the odd bar­rier. Wooden ob­sta­cles can be punched through with your sub’s mag­netic claw; for stur­dier block­ages you’ll need to drag around mines, which usu­ally in­volves pulling them through nar­row gaps be­fore at­tempt­ing to swing them into po­si­tion and let­ting go with­out get­ting caught in their blast ra­dius. It’s typ­i­cal of the kind of cum­ber­some, pa­tience-test­ing chal­lenge here: you’ll of­ten find your­self shunted about by sonar waves and strong cur­rents, or slowly herd­ing obstructive jel­ly­fish with your head­lights. Later, you’ll spend some time with an ex­tended light-re­flec­tion puz­zle, which in­volves repo­si­tion­ing a se­ries of mir­rors, and was al­most cer­tainly more fun to de­sign than it is to play.

Ex­plo­ration is pri­ori­tised over com­bat, which is sen­si­ble since the lat­ter is rather ba­sic. Your claw is enough to clob­ber most en­e­mies; you can use mis­siles to deal with the rest. Yet the sub’s slug­gish move­ment and the mo­tor’s slow recharge rate dis­cour­ages you from hunt­ing the col­lectibles that would make prob­ing these depths more palat­able. The nar­ra­tor’s pres­ence, mean­while, lessens the sense of dis­cov­ery: it feels less like you’re ven­tur­ing into un­charted wa­ters so much as bum­bling about be­fore cue­ing up the next chap­ter.

If the sto­ry­teller’s sooth­ing lilt en­cour­ages you to drop off, the clos­ing stretch is a rude awak­en­ing, as you’re locked into cramped rooms stuffed with te­dious vol­umes of bola-chuck­ing an­gler­fish, spine-spit­ting urchins and clus­ters of jel­ly­fish that rush you be­fore ex­plod­ing. Oth­er­wise, Song Of The Deep is more suc­cess­ful as a lul­laby than a fairy­tale: by the time you’ve beaten a lack­adaisi­cal fi­nal boss, you’ll prob­a­bly be feel­ing pretty drowsy.

The more or­ganic en­vi­ron­ments are among the pret­ti­est in the game: pre­sum­ably we’re sup­posed to be daz­zled by an un­der­wa­ter city, but with its levers, gates and pres­sure plates, it can’t help feel­ing fa­mil­iar

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