It’s been three years since Insomniac Games has moved away from developing games exclusively for PlayStation-branded platforms, and Song of the Deep marks the first game published by GameTrust Games (GameStop). A charming and colorful tale, Song of the Deep is a Metroidvania-style adventure game. As a young girl named Merryn, you journey to the heart of the ocean in search of your missing seafaring father. Building her own makeshift submarine, Merryn dives into the unknown, in a world full of mystery and intrigue.
Exploring a wide open environment under the water, Merryn finds herself exploring lost ruins, sunken pirate ships, coming face-to-face with some of the scariest creatures in the deepest depths of the ocean and finding long-lost treasure. Broken up into different regions, Song of the Deep does a good job of allowing you to explore without too many restrictions, but you won’t be able to go everywhere from the start. In typical fashion, new equipment and power-ups are needed to access certain areas, prompting you to remember where these locations are. The map highlights where you should be heading next with a flashing “X” if you find yourself directionless and want to move the story along.
The world in Song of the Deep is broken up into different regions, and while you will have to backtrack to gather all the power-ups and for story reasons, the game does include warp points that can take you between them. I can only recall a single time where I used one, as I found myself enjoying the beautiful scenery; the colorful coral reefs, small schools of fish weaving in and out of plant life, and massive creatures gently swimming in the background. Not to mention, I tend to search for every possible hidden secret. If you come across anything you can’t reach or access, it will be marked on your map, so you know where to come back later. What it doesn’t do, however, is inform what you’ll need to access the new area, so plan to try out new abilities in previous areas.
Although Merryn’s built her own rickety submarine herself, it comes equipped with some impressive upgrades. Initially, you’ll start with a weak grappling hook to attack enemies and to pick up items to help you solve puzzles. You can also fling objects, such as seashells, starfish, and even unsuspecting crabs at the numerous giant electric jellyfish and other sea creatures trying to kill you. Eventually, you’ll gain new upgrades that provide additional options for engaging in combat, such as firing torpedoes of varying types and a powered-up grappling hook. My favorite is the molten lava torpedo, providing damage over time to anything it sticks to. If you miss, you can also use it as a grappling point to help maneuver through fast moving currents. The submersible is quite agile once you get used to the way it controls. Boosting is a must, as you're up against sharp-toothed fish, and crustaceans that shoot anything from harpoon-like barbs to attacks that track your movements.
Most of the encounters are enjoyable and don’t overstay their welcome, but as you backtrack you’ll have to face even tougher foes. This helps elevate the mundane task of returning to previous areas, and I never felt the disdain that some games give you for returning to previous areas. As mentioned, you are free to use the warp points if needed. At times you’ll face waves of spawning enemies that appear almost right on top of you, but the worst is when you are attacked by creatures off-screen. It only occurs when you are trying to move swiftly through locales. Future upgrades allow for you catch your own torpedoes and swing it around your submarine for defense, so eventually, this stops being a concern.
All encounters aren’t the same, and Song of the Deep hurls different types of enemies at players frequently. Tougher foes require multiple hits, but you’ll also be purchasing upgrades from a friendly hermit crab that generally appears close to save points. He likes shiny items, so collecting coins from enemies and finding hidden treasure chests in the ocean seabed is important. Not only that, but you can increase your health and your power meter that feeds into your torpedo usage by finding secret power-ups. Merryn is also able to swim outside of the submarine to reach new caverns and caves using your new slimmer form factor to fit into the narrow passageways.
Early on in Song of the Deep, puzzles are rather rudimentary, making use of your grappling hook to open latches or complete 3-piece statues that are missing certain sections. They get more elaborate as you progress, adding timing puzzles to the mix and around halfway through you’ll be redirecting multiple beams of light through mirrors as Merryn (outside of your sub). Certain parts are tricky, but understanding the mechanics of the puzzles are key. In one part, you must latch onto a mine attached to a balloon and venture through tight corridors without touching anything or risk the mine exploding. Parts like this may require you to retread your steps if you fail, but overall it never felt like a chore or a waste of time.
Song of the Deep is an intriguing, fun adventure game with enjoyable puzzles and a remarkable presentation. The colorful setting leaps off the screen, taking me back to my childhood story books. The game shines with the sheer amount of puzzles that range from accessing a hidden treasure chest, opening a door latch, to more advanced ones.
Note: The Song of the Deep review is based on a digital pc copy of the game, provided by the developer for review purposes.