Sometimes a game has all of the right components to be great, but just doesn’t turn out the way that it should. Song of the Deep is one of these games. On a surface level, Song of the Deep should be fantastic. Proven, reliable developer? Check. Interesting concept? Check. Beautiful world? Check. Song of the Deep has the proper ingredients to make for an excellent game, but upon diving in, you’ll find that it’s a lot more shallow than its title suggests.
Song of the Deep follows the story of a young girl named Merryn whose father is a fisherman that travels out to sea quite often. When he returns home, he tells his daughter tales of his adventures on the ocean. One day, Merryn’s father leaves and doesn’t return. Merryn, distraught and worried about her father, ends up having a vision of him trapped deep underneath the sea. It is then she decides to build herself a submarine and dive to the depths of the ocean to save her father.
The story is fairly bland and doesn’t have many interesting plot points. For all intents and purposes, it’s just the driving motivation to get you to explore the depths of the oceanic world that the game takes place in. What I did enjoy about the story though was the way in which it was told. The game is narrated throughout its entirety and cut scenes tend to take the form of illustrated pages. Essentially, it is like you are being read a children’s book before going to bed. The illustrations are quite pretty to look at and the voice acting by the narrator is great. While I didn’t care for the story the game told, I did enjoy the unique way in which it was conveyed to me as the player.
The presentation of Song of the Deep’s world is quite superb. The game’s aesthetic is delightful and combined with its soundtrack really does create an ambient experience that makes you feel like you’re exploring the ocean’s depths. Unfortunately, the world itself isn’t doesn’t have enough variety to make up for its visually pleasing look.
One of my biggest gripes with Song of the Deep is that the world you’re exploring doesn’t feel unique from area to area. One of the great things about most side-scrolling Metroidvania games is that there are many different subsections that each have their own separate styles and feels. Heck, sometimes the music even changes when transitioning to a new section. It’s these smaller areas in Metroidvania games that help make up the collective world that you’re exploring. Song of the Deep does have separate areas, but none of them feel unique whatsoever. None of the locations I traveled to in Song of the Deep stood out to me and they were all extremely forgettable.
Your motivation for traveling to these forgettable locations is also quite lacking. Too many of the objectives in Song of the Deep feel like fetch quests. Quests like this are never much fun to begin with but when you’re traveling across a game world that already feels somewhat void they become even worse.
What’s by far the most egregious part of this game in my opinion would have to be the gameplay mechanics. Combat is extremely boring and offers almost nothing new. Your main weapon is a melee style retractable hook, which was a hassle to use. You also have access to a few different projectiles, but none of them are very different from one another. Combat is a snooze fest, to say the least, and that’s a shame. Insomniac Games is commonly known for having some fantastic weapons in their games but the opposite can be said here. There are some interesting boss fights where the combat starts to feel like it’s coming together, but these moments are few and far between.
The worst mechanic of all in Song of the Deep game though would have to be the movement of your sub. Controlling this vehicle drove me to the brink of insanity on multiple occasions. Your submarine is much too floaty in this game and it directly affects your ability to complete certain puzzles. Now, I know that the game takes place entirely underwater so it makes sense for it to have a floaty feel but to me, this still doesn’t excuse it. When I have to try and complete a puzzle a dozen times over simply because I feel like I don’t have proper control of my vehicle, then that’s a problem. I understand why you would want to make your sub feel like it is underwater, but when it starts to become noticeable frustrating is when it becomes an issue.
Song of the Deep isn’t necessarily a bad game, but it’s not really a good one either. While the game boasts a pleasing aesthetic, the world itself doesn’t feel unique and the controls are a drag. I expected more out of Insomniac Games, especially when it comes to creating unique weapons and fun combat. If you like Metroidvania games a lot, then you may find it worth your time. If not, then I suggest you don’t dive into these waters of mediocrity.