Insomniac Games is usually known for higher-end projects like Ratchet and Clank, Spider-Man the Game for PS4, and the always delightful Sunset Overdrive. So imagine our surprise, then, when the team decided to take a unique turn with its latest release, Song of the Deep.
Published in conjunction with GameStop, Song is essentially a 2D adventure, where you guide a young girl named Merryn into the depths of the ocean, with the help of a fully equipped submarine. Along the way – and on her journey to rescue her father – she’ll come across new areas that require certain upgrades to access, as well as some new puzzles to solve.
The game is vintage Metroidvania design through and through, with a vast world to explore, treasures to find and secrets to uncover, particularly some neat stuff involving clams. That’s not to say that the trek is entirely easy, though. Sometimes, you’ll run into segments that require you to do the exact right thing at the right time, or you’ll have to start over again. That’s not to say they’re impossible, but with a peaceful, underwater game of this nature, it just seems like the precision feels a bit unnecessary.
But then again, maybe that’s the nature of the beast that Insomniac Games had in mind. There are some puzzles that are likely to be headaches to folks (like how to get past some bothersome currents in the beginning that prevent your progress), but then you feel just a bit more gratitude when you find the right item to get the job done, or discover that upgrading your claw (your main weapon) to something a bit more concussive does allow you to break on through to the other side.
While there are some other Metroidvania-style games that have a bit more easygoing nature, Song of the Deep still works overall, mainly due to the scope of Insomniac’s savvy level design. The new aspects of the world are quite fantastic, especially the deeper ones where the only way you’ll be able to find your way around is with a pair of headlamps. The lighting here is quite exquisite, even for a 2D-style game.
In fact, the graphics as a whole are quite refreshing, reminding us of other underwater-based adventure games, like Bandai Namco’s unrelated Treasures of the Deep, which I still feel is an underappreciated gem. Obviously times have changed and Song of the Deep is more modern than that 1997 release, but you can still feel that underwater tone in play, especially as you scavenge new areas and discover that, yes, you can buy cool upgrades from a hermit crab. Maybe he’s from Spongebob Squarepants’ world or something…
Along with the great visuals, Song of the Deep also has a vivid soundtrack that’s quite fitting with games of this type – it even has more personality than the old tracks from Ecco the Dolphin. The sound effects and dialogue are well done as well, really engulfing you in the story as it goes on.
As for the combat, it’s satisfying to take down deadly sea creatures with utmost precision. Insomniac Games certainly hasn’t failed in the action department. However, again, some of the puzzles may prove to be a nuisance to some players, along with needing to do the right thing at the right time. Just wait until you get to the “lasers section” (as I call it) and you’ll see what I mean.
While Song of the Deep isn’t quite the piece of smooth sailing I expected it to be, it’s still a fun, appreciative title that makes up for its rough parts with exciting combat and a superb presentation. It isn’t Insomniac Games’ usual territory, but the team still settles into it enough to make it worth a visit. I just wish that the waters weren’t so rough in some places.