Submerged: Hidden Depths
Reviewed by: Joe Cabrera
There is nothing more joyous in a game than just taking it all in. Especially when the game looks as wonderful and peaceful as Submerged: Hidden Depths. If you came here for hectic combat, bloodshed, jump-scares or mechanics that strip away all of your hard-earned items, You came to the wrong place. Submerged Hidden Depths possesses none of that. In fact, the game is so forgiving, it won't even let you fail. Because this game isn't about the accolades of making it to the finish line. It's simply about enjoying the journey.
This game is all about exploring and experiencing the world that developers Uppercut Games have crafted for you. You take control of Miku and Taku, siblings on an adventure to find a new place to settle. Unfortunately, Miku and Taku happen upon a sunken city embroiled in a dark rot that has strangled this city and left it deserted. Your mission in this game is simple. Vanquish the crumbling city of its disease and return it to its former glory.
The gameplay is exceptionally simple. There are no enemies in this game. Your duty is simply to explore each area until you discover the seed which must be placed inside The Mass (a growth that's entangling the location you find yourself in). Doing this will free the region of its corruption and you can move on to the next available area. The game will rinse and repeat this formula for the entirety of its 4-hour campaign.
The graphics and art style for this game are stand out features. They wonderfully complement the concept of the game by making you feel relaxed and intrigued in equal measure. They invite the player into exploration are the main reason I found myself exploring areas beyond the main game locations. Exploration is not only driven by intrigue but also by the game's addition of lore, ship upgrades and relics which serve as the game's collectables. Aside from this, the game offers 'landmarks' that you can travel to and whilst these are nice to look at and some serve as a decent checkpoint to take a break and enjoy a view, they don't really serve any real purpose in the game other than literally to just go to them.
The movement in this game is unfortunately my main gripe with it. It's not that the movement doesn't control well, it's not that the movement is janky or imprecise, it's not that the controls are mapped poorly. In fact quite the opposite. All of the above are seamless. The problem is that all actions are performed automatically. There is no jump button, no grab, no crouch not even an action button. All you have to do is walk up to a point of interest and the game will take care of the rest. Whilst I applaud the game's sense of direction and its commitment to being a "relax-a-thon" I draw the line at not being able to control the actions of the character. It means there are points in this game where you can literally play it with one hand and whilst some might see that as the ultimate form of relaxation gaming, I feel it crosses the line into monotony. Where the aesthetics and graphics have done such a good job at driving intrigue the character movement at times undo that good work. The Proof is in the fact that this 4-hour long game took me 2 sittings to complete simply because the game grew a little tiresome about halfway through. Yet, games that could be likened to it such as Journey, Flower or Untitled Goose Game I couldn't put down and for me, this was because the interactivity between you and the character you control on the screen allowed for more than just moving in certain directions.
The game's story is this and can be hard to follow. The books that you find give you pieces of lore but they aren't exceptionally gripping and can be easily ignored. As you play through the game piece by piece you will unlock pictures that tell a story of you Miku and Taku came to be in the situation they are in and these are bolstered by cut scenes between each area that aim to express and build the relationship between the two main characters. The problem here is that the language they speak is a made-up one and their facial expressions and body language can be quite hard to read leaving some of these cut scenes more confusing than they are enlightening.
I enjoyed my time with Submerged: Hidden Depths. It definitely takes a certain state of mind to feel the full effects of this game in my opinion. Those of us with hectic schedules and a busy lifestyle are who will feel the most benefit from playing a game like Submerged. Those of us who need a quiet afternoon to just relax and take something cheerful in. For us, Submerged: Hidden depths is a rewarding experience. However, those that require a game to be filled with mind-bending puzzles, strategic gameplay and difficulty walls will not find enjoyment here. Despite the game's few flaws, I think Uppercut Games have done a magnificent job of creating a beautiful journey that just might bring you some peace in a fairly tumultuous world.