Saturday
Oct152016

QCF: Song of the Deep

s vast as the ocean is, nothing compares to the depth that it hides below; there’s this whole other world that exists under the fathoms, upon fathoms of the sea’s underbelly. So one would imagine just how well the explorative dynamics of a Metroidvania-direction would complement that sort of setting, especially with the caliber of a developer like Insomniac Games at the helm—and Gamestop publishing it themselves to boot.

In spite of this surefire recipe for success however, Song of the Deep only manages to live up to be somewhat endearing at best, and hopelessly mediocre at worst.

 Yeah, I know; the review is already going downhill from the start but my impression just simply couldn’t help from being deflated by the fact that the game’s biggest flaw happens to be one of the most important elements to a successful Metroidvania title.

The Level design—it stinks, in multiple ways…multiple, significant, ways.

Unlike the typical platforming trials and puzzles that are used to gate the progression in other contemporary titles, Insomniac’s crack at the formula pits into the role of a young girl named Merryn and her family submarine, as she pilots it in search of her father who’s lost out at sea. Diving deep in expedition, the brave little lady will spend a majority of the time operating her vessel underwater, meaning that movement and exploration is done in a space where the emphasis is never focused on specific elements of exploration like verticality or level bridging because players will are able to move all eight directions freely.

Sure, more freedom is great, but the world layout seems to lack any kind of ingenuity to its foundation to flesh any of that imaginative possibility that it’s capable of—almost as if it lacked confidence within its own potential.

See, the sensation of discovery is what drives players through these type of action games. Adventures that guaranteed that where was something new around the corner, no matter what path was chosen, and that even if you hit a dead end somewhere along the way, there was always this reassurance that it would make sense eventually because the whole world is connected in some ingenious way. The ocean depths in Song of The Deep fails to understand this however because the directions gradually reveal themselves are either linear, or uninspiring, or are just plain disorienting, and aimless if you manage the nerve to veer off the path, which shouldn’t even be as transparent as it is. Pull switch, move thing, listen to somewhat cryptic yet, not-so-subtle hint as to what to do next, then rinse, and repeat—it’s sadly that simple.

Even if I were to overlook the bad pacing, and stage design of Song of The Deep, the action in between all the traversal and exploration is pretty shallow (don’t worry y’all, the irony is not lost to me on that one) and it’s not long before it just begins to get boring, tedious even.

The charm of swimming up, down, and all around wears thin a lot quicker than it should, and before I knew it, I found myself sighing at the absence of a faster method of travel, but I doubt that even THAT would have made it more enjoyable anyway. In addition, there are only a handful of enemies that’re encountered in the game, and the most variety offered from them are palette swaps, and cheap difficulty spikes the further you advance through the campaign. After reaching a certain point in your skills, and upgrades, Merryn can one-shot almost any foe that attacks her, and Song of the Deep’s response to scaling that is to obnoxiously throw as many enemies as it can at you within any given mob, making them more of a chore than a challenge.

Despite the unique approach to a genre that’s admittedly close to peaking, Song of the Deep only manages to regress the experience back to a dull, and frustrating one. It’s like getting the chance to visit another candy factory, except the tour guide is either flippant, or lazy during your whole trip, and none of the sights live up to the expectations that the product initially promoted either. It’s not going to set your wallet back a whole lot, but it’s definitely not going to give you much back on any of the time that you spend on it either—play at your own risk.

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