Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Gametrust Game
In January, Gamestop announced that they would be partnering with Insomniac Games to distribute physical copies of Song of the Deep. The goal was for the chain to directly connect with players on a larger scale and it was said that they would be willing to work with other developers if this collaboration succeeded. Not long after, in April, they announced the creation of a publishing division they called GameTrust. This publishing division aims to serve as a publisher for mid-sized development companies. They are now officially working with developers such as Ready At Dawn, Tequila Works, and Frozenbyte.
As for Song of the Deep, it is developed by a small team of 15 people which is similar to when they were developing Spyro the Dragon back in the day. For Chief Creative Officer Brian Hastings, this has become a passion project. His goal was to create a heroine that his daughter could look up to as an alternative to the female leads in today’s video games that are depicted “sexy” or “pretty” as compliment to their power. He would instead replace those assets with the positive qualities that he finds in his daughter. This is not the first time Insomniac has make bold moves in this area—it is in fact something they are known for.
Most likely due to the influences that led to the creation of Song of the Deep, there is no content that players need to be aware of. The ESRB has given it an “E” rating for its cartoon violence. This refers to the combat that takes place in the game where players will be shooting hostile enemy sea creatures with torpedoes. When the player is defeated, the narrator actually explains that the character did not die, and that it is one of the many results that could take place in that particular situation.
The sense of progression is key to keep Metroidvanias going, and I really felt that with Song in the Deep. In the very beginning, you have nothing—no weapons or tools of any sort. Though very quickly you gain two things: the magnetic hook and the ability to boost. The hook can be used for combat, but the biggest reason for its existence is picking things up and pulling things open. The most important tool a player can have is the torpedoes. Not only will they help you blow up walls but they also bring some distance between you and enemies that like to get a little too close. All of the tools you discover can be upgraded with the coins you pick up around the game, making things a little bit easier to take on. Later, you can actually leave your submarine thanks to the power of a mysterious necklace that was once owned by Merryn’s father. This item adds a sense of bravery to the character along with elements that nicely suit this puzzle-centric tale.
I found the puzzle elements very enjoyable in Song of the Deep. this is possibly due to my rising interest in puzzle games such as Inside and Portal, which are also extremely popular. The puzzles themselves are never too difficult either. The few times I got stuck were because I wasn’t seeing something that was right in front of my face. The more difficult puzzles are the more physics-based ones, and even then it was just me over-analyzing the situation at hand. In any puzzle game the best moments are those “ah ha” moments where you finally see what it is you need to do, there is no better satisfaction than conquering a puzzle that has been stretching your brain for the last 20 minutes or so—I had plenty of those moments here.
The presentation in Song of the Deep the game really speaks for itself in the first trailer. The story itself does not do anything groundbreaking, but the hand-drawn setting and cutscene stills are a treat to look at, especially when you travel from one area to the next. With each area, the tone can drastically change from bright and adventurous to dangerous and brooding. All all of that can’t happen without a good soundtrack, which also stands out and fits the world perfectly. The voice acting is especially well done, amd throughout the game a female is telling the story of Merryn and reminded me so much of the first time I played The Sands of Time. Lastly, the player and creature models are a bit on the average side, while the bosses are an exception.
Up until a certain point I knew what kind of score I was going to give Song of the Deep. It was right around the start of the final act when I began to question myself. The strongest traits of the game certainly are not combat, and in the final act I found myself having to fight through waves of enemies. The only way I could proceed was to finish them all off, and this can become increasingly difficult when you have cannons firing at you along as you are attentive to all of the enemies coming at you. I can see that it was meant to build tension, but I feel that it derailed the game from the intelligent structure that it had going for it. All of that prevents me from even wanting me to play through it a second time.
Apart from that, Song of the Deep is still a great piece of art. The game was even adapted into a book so that people who do not play video games can experience the story. This was the first time the people of Insomniac Games had ever attempted a game of this style and genre. They ultimately had the right idea, but to my disappointment the game fell short of my expectations.
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The Bottom Line
Song of the Deep has everything going for it: the great art style, cool story, and fun Gameplay. However, it falls short in the final segments where it changes everything that makes the game great. As a result, this one may be tough to come back to after players have finished it.