Review: Song of the Deep (PS4)

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Title: Song of the Deep
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (1.72 GB)
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: GameTrust
Developer: Insomniac Games
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Song of the Deep is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
It’s great to see a big-time developer like Insomniac take a step back and create something that doesn’t push the PlayStation 4 to the limits. Insomniac has decided to see how the other side lives and develop a very indie-like title called Song of the Deep, a story driven adventure game that is being labeled as having a Metroid-vania style of gameplay.

I was, however, taken back immediately to my days of playing Ecco the Dolphin on the SEGA Genesis. After all, this adventure takes place entirely underwater and physics mechanics, like aquatic inertia, must be learned and appreciated in order to avoid death. Also reminiscent of the classic Genesis title is the feeling of discovery and the storybook like narrative of finding your loved one.

You play the role of Merryn. She lives in a small village and every day, she awaits the return of her father, who shares stories of his travels. Merryn believes that most of his stories are embellished and exaggerated, what with giant beasts and underwater civilizations being the common topic of his tales.

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But one day her father fails to return. After waiting through the night, Merryn decides to build her own makeshift submarine and plunge into the depths of the ocean in order to find him. It doesn’t take long for her to discover that perhaps her father’s otherwise outlandish stories might be true after all.

Song of the Deep takes you on the aforementioned adventure via this small submarine. Initially, the sub is limited to simply maneuvering the depths. However, throughout the adventure you will discover other tools and upgrades that will both make exploring easier and also allow you to engage some of the more hostile residents down below.

… punch the living hell out of nasty creatures …
By “exploring easier” I am referring to that traditional Zelda-like style of exploration, where previously inaccessible locations become available by the use of a newly discovered tool.

Your primary tool for both defense and exploration is a claw that extends from the front of your vehicle. You can use the device to pull on latches, carry objects around, and even punch the living hell out of nasty creatures.

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If you haven’t played a game like this before, or even games like Galak-Z, you might need to familiarize yourself with allowing inertia to become part of your combat strategy. I’ve always found this type of gameplay to be very enjoyable.

Basically, if you charge an enemy with a burst from your accelerator, you don’t simply hold the gas down. Instead, you use the burst to carry you forward, and let gravity or inertia pull you the rest of the way as you turn and fire at the enemy. However, if you need to adjust your course heading, you simply tap on the accelerator as you change direction.

… spend a lot of time exploring and backtracking …
If this does not sound enjoyable, then you might want to skip this game because you will be doing a lot of this. In some cases absolute finesse will be the difference between life and death when navigating between dangerous, and hungry, anemone. I never found this gameplay to be too difficult and there are plenty of save points to keep death from becoming overly frustrating.

To aid you on your quest you will find shopkeepers that sell upgrades for your tools as well as for yourself or submarine. Currency of Song of the Deep is acquired via downed enemies but also found scattered throughout the environment. Hidden treasures also translate into cash.

You will spend a lot of time exploring and backtracking to places you explored before, but you always have access to a map, and you always know where your next story destination will be as it is marked by a huge X.

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Visuals:
Insomniac took a step back in terms of graphically technical visuals but achieved no less of a gorgeous game. Amazing and fantastical vistas dot the background and the occasional leviathan-sized creature swims in the distance as you explore an underwater city.

Stylistically-speaking, the design choice is evident in some of the machine constructs, as there is almost a cyberpunk aesthetic to some of the contraptions.

… it’s worth checking out …
Additionally, cinematics are told in an illustrated storybook fashion, with a voiceover carrying the narrative along. I felt the story segments and in-game graphics clashed a little in style, but this did not diminish in any way from the experience.

Audio:
Another reminder of my Ecco the Dolphin experience from long ago was the use of sound and music. The feeling of being underwater is enhanced by the muffled sound and the music is new-agey. It really soothes the senses when exploring, and serves to make Song of the Deep a relaxing experience, in addition to an already enjoyable one.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
You shouldn’t come into this expecting Ratchet and Clank or Resistance: Fall of Man. This is Insomniac doing what they do well: creating fun games regardless of how big or small the experience might be.

This is fun little game about exploration and discovery with a minimalist storyline and game mechanic. It’s something that could easily get lost in the summer craze, particularly with the little fanfare it has received, but it’s worth checking out.

It won’t make for exciting gaming conversations with your friends, but it is one of those smaller adventures that you will always carry with you.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • George Nash

    I have seen some game play videos and this game looks like its just the type of game I love to play. I will likely be getting this one.