There are few things in gaming more fascinating than seeing a developer breaking away from their wheelhouse to try something new. Good or bad, the results are always engaging, and on the best of days it can produce the likes of One Finger Death Punch. However, it’s rare to see a renowned AAA developer pushing for this, especially one so renowned and beloved as Insomniac. Best known for their work on the Resistance series, the release of a mini metroidvania title is the last thing anyone would have expected, but the results are fascinating.
The key gimmick here is the game’s underwater environment, set far below the surface and bereft of any true weight. As a result, the Song of the Sea skips many of the traditional platforming segments, instead relying upon fast moving minefields, timed challenges and maintaining a rapid pace. This is accomplishes with flying colours and, despite the old idea of Atlantis being boring, the environments themselves are beautiful to behold, offering everything from grim shark infested ruins to a bright gold and brass remnant of past ages. A good thing given how often you’ll be backtracking from place to place.
There are also a solid number of weapons on hand which range from torpedoes to a spinning morning star style energy mace. While each is naturally needed to kill a specific boss, this small armoury makes slicing through hordes of mooks a joy at every stage, and you’ll rarely be sticking to a single weapon for very long. The upgrade system is also well developed, offering some fun ideas or twists with every new perk.
Ironically, in spite of its name the real weakness here is a distinct lack of any real depth. Insomiac were definitely playing it safe with this one, sticking to tried and true mechanics before all others and never pushing for a truly challenging experience. The bosses are relatively few and far between, lacking when it comes to imaginative mechanics, and each key mechanic is little more than a well-known trope of the metroidvania genre. This isn’t to say the game is bad, of course, merely that behind the stunning visuals and tight gameplay, this is the same sort of game you’ll have played a hundred times over elsewhere.
Whatever it lacks in mechanical originality, Song of the Deep is nevertheless still fun and engaging. If you’re after a cheap, flashy and surprisingly fun release this summer, and don’t mind the fact it sticks to old ideas, definitely give it a look.
SONG OF THE DEEP / DEVELOPER: INSOMNIAC GAMES / PUBLISHER: GAMETRUST GAMES / PLATFORM: PC, XBOX ONE, PLAYSTATION 4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW