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Ever since Mario first dove into the ocean to battle bloopers on the NES, gamers have dreaded having to put on their swimming trunks. Games or stages that take place underwater have a reputation for being slow, hard to control and frustrating, but a new wave of games like The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human and the upcoming Abzu seek to redeem the watery genre. Song of the Deep, a new underwater exploration game made by Ratchet & Clank creators Insomniac Games, is part of this trend.
Does Song of the Deep help salvage the reputation of underwater games, or does the the genre remain all wet? Let’s find out…
Song of the Deep (PC, Xbox One & PS4)
Song of the Deep, which tells its story with storybook-style watercolor illustrations, is the tale of Merryn, a 12-year-old girl raised by her single fisherman father. When said father disappears at sea, Merryn constructs a rickety submarine and delves into a magical, menacing underwater world to (hopefully) find him. The story isn’t terribly complex, and the children’s book presentation has been done before, but it’s a welcome departure for Insomniac, whose games usually strike more of a rad, bad, snarky tone. The game’s story is also buoyed by an excellent Irish-tinged narrator, who gives the tale a properly mythic feel.
Song of the Deep is visually lush, and carries over some of the watercolor look of the cutscenes, without becoming overly stylized. It’s a nice, polished-looking game, but not quite as striking as it could be. The solid visuals are backed up by a fantastic, old-world-folksy soundtrack that adds immeasurably to the atmosphere of the game. Charm is not a word I’d usually associate with Insomniac Games’ output, but Song of the Deep has charm in spades.