Game Ramblings #17 – Song of the Deep

More Info from Insomniac Games

  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Platform: PS4
  • Also Available On: Steam, Xbox One

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this game is pretty close to Metroid: Zero Mission in a submarine.  For one thing, it’s very distinctly a Metroidvania title, with a 2D relatively open world, backtracking for upgrades and cash to areas you could not previously enter, and combat involving a lot of missiles.  For another, about half way through you earn the ability to exit your sub, mirroring the introduction of Zero Suit Samus, and the more risky decision making involved there.  However, this one does enough to separate itself from being just a clone, and ends up being a great experience for a great price.

This game really has boiled down what it means to be a fun Metroidvania title.  Direct traversal has a really nice flow to it.  Despite being underwater, the movement speed is really quick, and turning is tight, despite having a distinct weight to changes in direction.  Both main weapons (a rope claw, and a set of different missiles) feel good in combat, and also play a part in expanding the areas you can get to in the world.   Enemies are ever present, but don’t feel unfair, and also drop a fair amount of health pickups, so I didn’t ever feel stressed between large segments of combat.  Really this is about as good a Metroidvania as I’ve played in the last few years, and I would recommend it just for that.

Then you get to Insomniac’s attention to detail being at the forefront.  The story is lighthearted, but for them a surprisingly serious tale of a girl trying to find her lost father.  However, as ever it is fantastically well written.  Visually the game is absolutely beautiful, and the audio fits as a fantastic ambient soundtrack while floating through the various areas.  Every region has both a distinct visual style, and a matching soundtrack, so you’re always experiencing something a bit different, even as you’re just rummaging around trying to find every last hidden secret scattered around.

Realistically, there were some things that were definitely a bother.  Some upgrades were not very obvious in what their intended role was, though experimentation quickly fixed that problem.  The inherent floatiness of the controls definitely worked great in most areas, but some tight laser avoidance areas showed some of the potential weakness of underwater adventures.  In one particular area, there was an obnoxious escort segment involving a tiny sea creature needing to be led via lights, who liked to go get distracted everywhere but where I wanted him to go.  That said, none of this detracted from the overall experience.

If you’re a fan of Metroidvania games, go do yourself a favor and go buy this one.  It’s only $15, and you get a great 6-8 hour adventure.  I’d also recommend going to pickup the physical copy if you’re into collecting.  I suspect this was a fairly limited run, and will be a good entry into your collection in the future when it becomes a lot harder to find.  Either way, this was a definite game worth playing.

I’m also going to put a side note here.  This game is the first released by GameTrust Games.  Most people probably won’t recognize that name, but it’s the new publishing arm started by GameStop.  A lot of people have a fairly negative view on GameStop, and some of that is definitely warranted.  However, them selecting this as their first title, a game that I suspect most publishers straight out ignored, is a potentially good sign for the future of that division.  They’ve got games signed from Ready at Dawn (The Order: 1886), Tequila Works (Deadlight), and Frozenbyte (Trine), so it certainly seems like we might be seeing some more interesting stuff coming out from them this year.

It’s going to be curious to see where GameStop takes that publishing arm, but leading with a small title from a great developer shows that they may be willing to take some risks to give back to the players and developers that they may have previously spurned.