Developer Insomniac Games has a long history of creating memorable worlds and characters. Their upcoming ID@Xbox title, Song of the Deep, feels very different from anything else in their stable, but it keeps that same charm, same visual flair, and same tight gameplay that you’d expect from the developer who brought us Sunset Overdrive.
Song of the Deep stars Merryn, a sea-loving fisherman’s daughter who sets off on a quest to find her father after his ship fails to return home. She builds a submarine out of scrap metal and wood, and dives into the depths of the ocean. In her submarine, Merryn explores underwater caverns and ruins, using the weapons and tools in her sub to fend off angry sea life and solve puzzles. She can even leave the sub and swim through areas that are too small for the ship to pass through.
Merryn’s journey starts as a storybook narration, and this presentation persists throughout the game. As Merryn makes her way deeper into the fathom, a narrator will chime in – adding to the story, and alerting you to points of interest.
Song of the Deep’s art direction really grabbed us. Despite this being an entirely 2D game, there’s real depth to ocean world. The layered backgrounds give a real sense of scale; when Merryn takes out overly aggressive jellyfish or lantern fish, they don’t just fade away, they float off into the background. It’s a small detail, but it definitely makes Song of the Deep stand out.
In our time exploring Song of the Deep’s labyrinthine levels at this week’s Game Developers Conference, we discovered numerous secret passages and hidden crevices, that contained treasure and dangerous enemies. The highlight of the game is its puzzles – a combination of laser-mirror puzzles and color theory that got surprisingly challenging for such a brief demo.
We were also impressed with how exciting the game felt, even with such a relaxing music and atmosphere. Swarms of jellyfish, for example, can become an extremely dangerous force if Merryn doesn’t use her missiles carefully.
It’s refreshing to have a game about exploring the deepest parts of the ocean – it’s a unique idea, and it’s shaping up to be both whimsical and beautiful. Song of the Deep is scheduled for a summer 2016 release on both Xbox One and Windows PC.