Thanks to Sometimes You for the review code
Title: Deep Ones
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 04/28/2018
In this retro exploration game, you take control of a Deepsea Diver who must find a way to repair his ship, which was damaged by an evil red octopus. Thus, he must travel through the depths of his lair, finding upgrades and other means of getting stronger before confronting the beast and getting out of there!
Stating proudly on the eShop store page that Deep Ones was inspired by the nature of ZX spectrum games of old, I’m sad to say that outside of the colored sprites and lack of animation that it barely has much to do with a ZX Spectrum game at all. When something like Z-Exemplar or Rock Boshers DX went all out with the throwbacks to that home computer, and Deep Ones doesn’t even bother to offer a soundtrack in the same soundfont as that system, (instead going for a horrendous electronic OST that just sounds awful) only using some of the system’s limited color palette, which just leads to it coming across as a game that uses the art style for the sake of a lower budget.
That being said, the game does nail one part of its presentation, and that comes from the atmosphere. Somehow, Deep Ones uses the excessive amounts of black backgrounds to an advantage by having the game truly feel dark and creepy. While it’s still no horror game by any means, the weak lighting, slow character movement, and strangely terrible soundtrack all come together to make the depths of the ocean feel unsettling, which is pretty impressive for a pixel art game that manages to do a lot of other things wrong with the presentation. Even the loading screen that greets you upon starting up the game comes off as creepy due to it being a random man sitting down, with no context or anything of the sort. (In fact, I didn’t even realize it was a loading screen at first until half a minute had passed and it finally changed to a proper title screen)
Deep Ones is an action platformer that moves at a slow pace, requiring you to take your time and be careful as you deal with the colorful enemies this game has to offer. While you start out with nothing besides your default jump, you will eventually gain a projectile weapon, along with a melee weapon later on. Unfortunately, the game’s problems become apparent as soon as you have control of your character, and that comes from the fact that he moves so slow. While it works in the game’s favor for the presentation, it can become a very agonizing ordeal to slowly move around the levels, even more agonizing when you try to make a jump over a pit, only for the diver to get caught on a wall corner and slip off into the depths below. (this happened way too many times to count that it isn’t even funny) Luckily, these special stones will refill your health and act as a checkpoint save, and there are enough of them to the point that you won’t have too much backtracking to do if you die a lot, but it still doesn’t stop the game from being a total bore.
Getting your projectile weapon doesn’t make things any better, either. In fact, it makes things even worse, because pressing the Y button will only fire one shot at a time, and said shot moves slowly across the screen until it goes off screen or hits something. This means if you have to deal with an enemy like a Turtle, Angler Fish or Puffer Fish, you have to learn to slowly dodge their attacks with your floaty jump (that part makes a bit of sense since you are underwater) while you shoot them with your horrible gun. Sometimes for no reason at all, the gun will just fire at will wasting shots and leaving you wide open, even when you don’t hit the Y Button. (This tends to happen a lot if I shoot and then jump as the guy is pulling out the weapon, as it just leads to him firing several more times without a button press)
Slowly but surely, you will get more upgrades, and the game’s control prompts do promise upgrades that improve the speed of your character, offer a Melee attack, and even one that lets you ride a seahorse to change the perspective of the game for a bit, but nearly an hour into the game and I couldn’t take it anymore. The game still was slow as molasses, the spooky lighting could only push the game so far, (even if it did get to the point where your weapon could be used to light up the way for you, which was a cool touch) and everything just felt beyond boring to the point I wanted to spend time playing the other games I need to review instead of this.
In conclusion, Deep Ones is a clunky trainwreck of a game, trying to present itself as a retro throwback, only for almost none of the game to actually feel retro in a way that came off as a proper throwback. Rather, the only part it did succeed in doing was being a suspenseful and actually unsettling experience, making me feel as if the depths of the ocean were a place that you did have to keep an eye out in. Sadly, when the majority of the game is a horribly boring, slow and dreadful experience that never gets any better, it’s hard to recommend this game for anything besides the spooky presentation. It’s a shame too, as with a lot more polish and focus on making the game a bit tighter, this could have been a fun way to spend an afternoon. Sadly, some things aren’t meant to be. I give Deep Ones a 3 out of 10, and can’t really recommend it to anyone at all, save for maybe those who want to see how the spooky nature of the game pans out. Believe it or not, there’s actually a demo out for this game, so you don’t even have to burn $5 in order to see this disaster for yourself.