SONG OF THE DEEP ON PLAYSTATION 4
Insomniac Games has built quite a name for themselves over the years with series like Ratchet & Clank, Spyro the Dragon, and Resistance. Considering their past work, Song of the Deep is quite a change for the developer, as it’s a Metroidvania-style game on a smaller scale and with a much quieter tone.
Merryn is the young daughter of a fisherman, who’s the dearest person in the world to her. One day while her father is out on the sea, his boat disappears leaving Merryn lost and alone. The young girl takes scraps of wood and wreckage that her father collected over the years, and builds a ramshackle submarine out of it. Song of the Deep tells you all this and most of its story segments, through colorful, hand drawn screens and visuals. A woman acts as the narrator, walking you through the entire experience, in a similar manner to the narrator of Supergiant’s Bastion. She adapts to actions you take in the world and explains enemies, power-ups, and new items as you stumble upon them.
After the short intro, Song of the Deep dumps you right into the ocean and in control of the submarine. The entirety of the game takes place underwater, making players explore a vast labyrinth of caverns, tunnels and open ocean. Areas with a mysterious energy known as “Tyne” save your game and restore your health, and the game bestows these generously upon you. Warp points allow easy access between certain areas, and shortcuts are everywhere. The sub controls are simple enough, moving the vessel around with the left analog stick.
The game quickly rewards you with its first and most useful item just a few minutes in: the claw. This claw allows you to pick up items in the world and throw or move them, hit enemies that threaten you and open doors or pull chains. Over the rest of the roughly six hours the game runs, you’re rewarded with many other items that improve the performance of your sub. A turbine allows you to boost, improving your speed and letting you rush through the strong currents that blow through the ocean. Missiles let you blow apart walls, blocking paths while also causing increased damage to enemies. Searchlights will move light sensitive enemies out of the way and illuminate your path in the dark. The myriad of items give a sense of natural progression to your submarine, and they each allow you to revisit areas to find more items and treasure.
The upgrade systems in Song of the Deep function on a treasure currency system. Throughout the world, you can find coins and gems as sunken treasure that add up to a currency. You can cash all this treasure in with a giant friendly hermit crab who’ll help you upgrade different functions on your ship. The game’s world is absolutely crammed full of alternate paths, secrets to explore, and treasure to collect.
Exploration plays a big part, both in the story and gameplay. Merryn is exploring the depths looking for her father, traveling through ever more harrowing locations. At the same time, to continue upgrading your ship, it’s imperative that you go off the beaten path now and again to look for treasure.
Song of the Deep has three different difficulty levels of Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Much of the game isn’t terribly difficult on any setting, but the latter half has some really strange difficulty spikes. One particular section had me rushing to escape from invincible killer squid, dodging obstacles, and blasting apart barriers with my missile. This section was removed from really anything else in the game, and the extra movement of the submarine made it incredibly difficult to successfully escape, forcing me to replay it numerous times while I had only died maybe twice in the hours leading up to it.