Song of the Deep had been on my radar for a long time, largely because it was made by Insomniac, the creators of one of my favorite gaming franchises, Ratchet & Clank. The game is an underwater Metroidvania where you control a submarine built by a girl named Merryn who makes it her goal to find her father, who went missing at sea. In true Metroidvania fashion, the game is a labyrinth of underwater passages, your means of progression tied to finding new upgrades for your submarine.
Starting on the shallower end of things (ahem, pun intended?), the graphics are quite colorful and the music is very pleasant, as well. And while the story is pretty standard and predictable in a lot of ways, it does hint at a larger world and deeper lore, specifically relating to the warlike civilization called the Fomori, who seemed to have vanished, but not without leaving plenty of weaponry behind.
The submarine didn’t always feel super precise to control, though I suppose you can say that’s just a part of being underwater. Gameplay consists of lots of exploring, some combat, and a good amount of puzzling. While the game wasn’t super interesting at first, it does get more fun once you have more abilities, which can be upgraded using the money found hidden in all sorts of nooks and crannies. These new abilities include torpedoes, sonar, and even the ability to swim around freely as Merryn.
Speaking of Merryn, she is used for solving my favorite puzzles in the game, the light puzzles, where Merryn must rotate mirrors and reflect light using her knife. At first, I found it super frustrating to reflect the light precisely, until I realized that you can just hold the control stick in the direction you want to aim. (I was kind of just rotating Merryn instead.) There is even an entire section of the game called the Deeplight where you must reflect red, green, and blue beams of light, which was a lot of fun. Sure, it looks pretty overwhelming at first, but if you just take it one step at a time, it’s actually pretty satisfying to figure out.
Difficulty-wise, the challenge is pretty medium, and the game even shows you where to go on the map, so you’ll never really get lost. Also, whenever I reached a particularly difficult section of the game, I’d usually have no trouble progressing once I purchased a few upgrades. I’d say the biggest challenge comes from some rather frustrating game mechanics. For example, there are these bombs with faces on them that you have to pull around on a chain. They have the most pitiful blast radius I’ve ever seen and have to be literally touching the object you want them to destroy. I had a bit more luck once I got better at swinging them around and chucking them at things at top speed so they’d stop trailing ineffectively behind me. There are also these warheads you must maneuver, and sometimes you even need to freeze them with your ice torpedo to make them float. And let me tell you, it’s not super easy to nudge around a floating object with any degree of accuracy Lastly, I kind of hated the currents and wish your sub had a longer lasting turbo.
Just a caveat, if you want to get 100% in the game, there are two things to keep in mind. In Skeleton Reef, there are these eels beneath a spotlight that shoots homing torpedoes if it sees you. You need to speed over the eels to make them all hide at once to get a treasure, but I, including plenty of people online, had no luck with this at all. I heard that it works better if you don’t break the boxes, but it was already too late by the time I read this tip. There is also an item in the upper right corner of the Forbidden City that you can’t get if you leave the area. I tried to get back there, but was barred entrance by a closed door that couldn’t be opened from that side.
Despite being made by a fairly well-known company, it’s a shame Song of the Deep is so obscure because it ended up being a really fun experience. Though a bit short for a Metroidvania game (it took 9 hours to beat the story and 2 additional hours to get the remaining treasures/items I had missed…save for the two described above), it’s also only $15, so the game was more than worth the price.