Song of the Deep

Insomniac truly lets in a breath of fresh air with their latest deep sea adventure, Song of the Deep. Don’t let the GameStop branding deter you; this game brings back many long lost feelings of youthful innocence and exploration unseen in the current market of video games. While the storytelling could be considered rather generic, it feels like a storybook that you would have heard during the first few years of your life, and ultimately manages to captivate players with its beautiful art and an interesting world to explore. This puzzle filled action-adventure title has lots to offer, from a beautiful and moving soundtrack accompanied by a heavy and deep isolated atmosphere, to one of the best sets of gameplay mechanics I’ve seen in a game of this genre. For a small price of 15 American dollars, there isn’t much of a reason not to try this brilliant game.

I’ve always been a fan of good story-telling, but to be quite frank, Song of the Deep doesn’t have all that much to offer as far as a deep and impactful narrative goes. It's by no means bad, in fact, I really enjoyed the feelings of purity that brought. It starts off with a girl named Merryn who has heard much of her father’s stories of life under the sea, and is challenged with facing the cruel realities of what was once fiction. In short, her father leaves for the sea and never returns. It is now up to Merryn, a scared yet curious little girl, only armed with a small submarine and a bit of hope, to find her father and see him once again. The story uses a good bit of narration during the gameplay, but really hits hard with hand drawn picture-book cutscenes. At the end of the day, the story ends up being a cute and charming fairy-tale like narrative, and finishes with feelings of satisfaction even if it isn’t all that involved.

Gameplay is the heart of Song of the Deep. The puzzles are all very well designed, all of the mechanics see use throughout the entirety of the game, and overall it feels almost like an undersea stylization of Super Metroid. The control is absolutely fantastic; you maneuver through a well-designed set of stunning areas filled with plenty of different pockets and corners where there are enemies to fight and puzzles to solve. Normally, in most Metroidvania style games, the areas can be a bit annoying to return to after the tenth or so time, but that not an issue in Song. The areas aren't oversized or bland, and offer a large variety of different things to do throughout the course of the game. Most of the time, this involves a change in the paths or new ways to go through the area due to new parts that you find for your ship over time. For example, at one point in the game, you find an upgrade that allows you to leave your submarine and traverse the waters with your own two feet. The game manages to expertly use this idea to create sections of the game only accessible in this form, which adds a multitude of opportunities to make very interesting and complex puzzles.

Throughout the course of the game, there are different treasures you can find that aid you with buying ship upgrades. Some of these upgrades require different abilities that you can find by either progressing forward or going out of your way to explore the vast ocean around you. Every time I got a new part for the ship, I immediately wanted to set sail and explore every nook and cranny to find all of the new treasures that I couldn’t get before. The map lists the locations of all of the treasures, but it doesn’t really detract from any of the enjoyment. This system of treasure hunting kept me hooked, and it rewards you for going out of your way. Speaking of rewarding, puzzles make up a majority of the game, and they give quite a bit of personal satisfaction once they're completed. None of the puzzles are so hard that you will easily get frustrated, but none of them are too easy either. The overall puzzle design truly strikes a fine median that crosses easy accessibility with challenge, and that is very much appreciated.

Throughout Merryn’s epic journey through the bottom of the sea, as I was reaching forward toward the goal, I felt a great sense of discovery that stands out against almost every game I’ve played in the past few years. It all felt very quiet and moody, and I loved every second of it. It felt like I alone had found all of these places and creatures that nobody had ever seen before.  The peaceful, ethereal atmosphere of Song of the Deep really does put the sweet and creamy icing right on the top of the cake. The mechanics and structure are already pretty solid, so with the addition of the overall atmosphere and tone making such an impact, it’s truly a site to behold. To me, Song of the Deep really shows how elegant nature can truly be.

Sometimes in life, you just have to sit back and appreciate everything around you. Song of the Deep is an absolutely gorgeous game with areas that are so beautiful, it's impossible to not indulge a little and just to take it in. Some of the models are a bit unpolished, but the backgrounds are absolutely incredible. They all trigger different emotions and feelings, as some  dreadfully dark and empty, while others feel like maybe they were once inhabited. The graphics are certainly a bit more on the cartoony side, and it helps boost the childish fairy-tale feeling, reminding you that this is an adventure, even if there is someone to save. It’s a bit odd, but I really enjoyed taking my time and exploring each and every cave there was to find. The game doesn’t try to pressure or annoy you into going after your father whom may or may not be alive, so it feels almost as if you’re trying to live the life that he had always wanted to. The entire atmosphere does a really good job immersing you, and the visuals are a big part of that, but only alongside of one other thing.

Nothing can exemplify the feeling of being isolated in the sea with natural beings and their homes, both beautiful and eerie, quite like the music presented alongside of it. Each and every track is masterfully crafted to evoke a sense of wonder, beauty, and fear that could be associated with a young girl’s journey to the bottom of the ocean. With your father gone, and you the player out on a mission to find and save him, you might expect the music to be a bit tense, but it instead sets a much preferred peaceful mood. For some, the idea of being in a submarine under the sea might be a bit boring, but being truly alone in a place that’s much bigger than the world you know really is an adventure, and the score demonstrates that. There are a few action packed moments, but most of the time you’re floating around is accompanied with beautiful sounds that make you long for the days when you were young and everything associated with that time in your life. The music found in the depths of the sea is exactly what you would find in Song of the Deep: a true masterpiece.

Fifteen USD really is a tiny price to pay for such a sublime experience. The story is a tad bit generic, but perfect in the sense of a children’s tale. The control and movement feels very fluid, and the game overall demonstrates mastery of basic mechanics typically used in games of the same genre. The soundtrack is superb and greatly improves the overall feeling of an already great experience. What isn’t there to love about Song of the Deep? Insomniac Games brings out the best of the retro golden age and blends it perfectly into a new and modern package for everyone to enjoy.

Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38