Deep Ones is the latest release from Sometimes You, where you play as a character known as the Diver as he tries to find his Submarine that has been taken from him by a giant Kraken style creature. With graphics that were inspired by the ZX Spectrum era and the promise of some old school platforming I dived in to Deep Ones, but found that there is actually very little here to shout about.
The start of Deep Ones has very little in the way of an intro, you have a minute or so that shows you the Kraken stealing your Submarine before you float down to the bottom of the ocean. As you float down you fall past the names of the various people involved with making the game, which I thought was a neat touch. As soon as you land you are thrown in literally to the deep end as there is no tutorial or anything to really show you what to do. Instead you have to figure out how to navigate the various levels with very little guidance which at times can cause a lot of unnecessary confusion due to some incredibly poor level design, especially in the latter parts of the game.
The controls in Deep Ones are pretty simple although they again are not explained and you are mainly left to work things out for yourself, A little into the game you eventually unlock the ability to use a harpoon gun to shoot enemies. This however is a challenge in itself as it turns out you can only fire a harpoon when you are on the ground so if you jump while near an enemy you’ll not fire until you’ve landed. It also take a ridiculously long to fire too so if you miss a shot you will need to move quickly which also causes its own set of problems. Although the controls mainly work fine your characters movement is very sluggish which can be rather frustrating. Any enemy you encounter can catch you with ease so you’ll need to learn to evade effectively or you’ll quickly find yourself in a lot of trouble. Later on you unlock the ability to use a sword which sounds great in theory, however it is actually easier to try and dodge the enemies completely as you have a tiny hit window to attack them plus you are often fighting against enemies that can shoot projectiles from distance.
Visually Deep Ones is initially charming with its vibrant colour scheme popping against the black background, and there is some good use of neon later on to really make things pop. This however soon gets old, and the colours on screen actually become somewhat of a hindrance in certain parts of the game. You’ll be fighting against gun weilding pirates and completely lose sight of the projectiles coming your way due to them blending in perfectly with some of the colours used in the scenery. If this was to only happen once or twice I could forgive it but it happened on numerous times for me which led to some frustrating encounters.
The music used in Deep Ones isn’t too bad but it quickly becomes repetitive after an hour or so playing, as do some of the sound effects used. The worst offender here is the noise that plays whenever you trigger a checkpoint. This might not sound like much to complain about, but if you die (which you will) and restart from a checkpoint you’ll hear that same sound effect every single time which will quickly start to test your patience.
About halfway in to Deep Ones things take a rather strange turn. You’ll fight what I found to be the hardest boss in the game and out of nowhere things change from a platforming game to something more reminiscent of a bullet hell style shooting game as you have to dodge countless waves of bullets while waiting for an opening to attack back.
The movement like I mentioned above is rather slow so getting the timing down for this can take a few attempts, you then have to evade an enemy attack that takes pixel perfect precision otherwise you’ll be losing health for sure. There are other game elements in Deep Ones that I wasn’t expecting, several sections have fast side scrolling levels that have you being chased by a boss that play more like a racing game as you have to dodge objects to reach the end of that section before you are killed. It seems like a weird inclusion to have these sections in a game marketed as a platformer and they could easily be removed without any detriment to the rest of Deep Ones.
Near the end of Deep Ones I started to notice that when things got a little hectic on screen I’d see quite a lot of screen tear, as well as a little slowdown when moving and jumping. This is something that in 2018 I’d be disappointed to see in a AAA title, so to see it in something that has very little happening in the visuals department really surprised me. When platforming I would also encounter multiple occasions where I would jump and not quite make a ledge. Instead of falling down so I could jump I would instead ‘stick’ to the wall I was trying to navigate which renders you completely immobile until the game recognises what is going on and eventually you fall down to the floor. Platforms in a couple of the latter levels would completely disappear if I moved to the left or right of where they were which left me having to jump blindly into the area I thought they were located.
My last real complaint with Deep Ones again involves the last third of the game, there are a lot of gloomy levels that have very little light due to the color pallet that has been used for those particular levels which made it rather difficult for me to navigate where I needed to be going. Once this part is cleared you encounter a new type of enemy you’ve never seen before which is fine until you try and pass one only for it to kill you instantly (even though it only takes one piece of your health bar). I spent a good 30 minutes or so trying to figure out what I was supposed to do only to stumble across the solution by pure chance. The mechanic used to pass these enemies is never used in any section of Deep Ones leading up to this area so I never had any indication this was something I could do, and once you do pass this section it doesn’t reappear until one of the very last levels.