Because around ninety-five percent of our ocean’s depths remain unexplored – a deep sea setting in any game draws out distinctly horrifying themes to exploit. The fear of the unknown, or something impossibly large are two of the many that spring to mind. Since humanity made the mistake of sailing on those same oceans, that means that games can also have shipwrecks to explore. These aren’t typically nice places to visit. Reveal the Deep continues this long standing legacy, by dumping the player in a wreck that is overrun with bizarre creatures with a taste for human flesh.
As a puzzle-oriented platformer (with a flair for horror), Reveal the Deep is a very chilling indie hit. While lacking in overall length, and containing a smattering of mechanical issues, the game is incredibly immersive straight from the word ‘go’. Each unique part of the ship, the USS Eurydice, is broken into three separate gameplay chapters that all build on one another. As the player wanders from section to section, clues in the form of journals, and notes, are given as hints as to the crew’s fate. Despite the graphical limitations, and the jerky controls, everything meshes together very finely in the first chapter. Where some games might struggle to find their feet with an opening, this wastes no time as the diver enters the brig. The atmosphere is palpable, with strange sounds echoing all around the speakers (to truly have fun with this, earphones/headphones are needed to amplyify the effect).
Not only is the game lacking any character interaction, it manages to make the player care about people that they cannot meet because of the obvious location. Every passing journal entry grows more sombre in tone, becoming a sort of twisted mirror for the surroundings. More interesting is the focus on lighting. Turning off your helmet headlight, as stupid as this may sound, can actually allow you to see things more clearly. Certain areas are lit by their own lamps, and seem to change their surroundings completely once your own lamp has been snuffed. Tables go from smashed splinters back into their original forms immediately, with no repercussions.
Chapter two is where things start to crank up the horror though. Upon arriving in the lower cargo decks, the player is greeted by creatures that aren’t human. And are essentially made of tar. The new species isn’t exactly keen on making friends either, as coming into contact with them means eventual death. This chapter brings not only new challenges, but new problems too. Ignoring the ice controls, because the diver is underwater, the game really struggles to keep up the intense atmosphere created in the previous chapter.
The tension is ruined once any of the numerous creatures lurking within the bowels of the ship manages to kill the player. Because the divers suit wasn’t built with combat in mind, only three strikes from the creatures can be taken. The third hit makes the player respawn at the nearest checkpoint. However, this doesn’t reset the hit counter. Meaning you can no longer be touched by the creatures in the same chapter, without dying instantly. This makes certain areas become totally infuriating to navigate, since the creatures need to be fended off by shining light upon them.
Another sizable issue comes if you fancy saving, and exiting before a chapter is complete. Because there’s such feature that allows that. While not game-breaking due the brief length of Reveal the Deep, it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else should you want to head out, and leave. However, the polish on the audio quality is undeniable. The gurgles of unknown voices, the flow of the sea, all sound very unsettling. Since background ambience in any horror game is somewhat paramount, Reveal the Deep does an absolutely perfect job of make anyone’s heart beat just a little faster.
With intriguing puzzles, and a slightly tear jerking ending, Reveal the Deep is no treble A scare-fest, but does a lot more with far less. Armed with no dialogue, pixel art graphics, and more gravity than your spine can handle, it does a wonderful job of making the player feel every step inside the ship. But it’s far from brilliant. Offering up a fun narrative, and then not building on it should be a sin in gaming. And that’s exactly what has happened by the third chapter. Not enough has been built upon, to make it as good as it could be.
Reveal the Deep – 72/100
Developer – Lazy Monday Games
Publisher – Lazy Monday Ltd
Genre – Casual, Indie, Horror
Release date – 4th December 2015
Website – http://www.lazymondaygames.com
Written by Matt Dawson