Inspired by the colour palette of the ZX Spectrum, Deep Ones is a bare bones arcade platformer that’s loaded with cheap deaths and unintuitive design. The FNGR GNS review:
On the Steam page for Deep Ones, the game is described as having a “Compelling and philosophical storyline”, “Classic arcade gameplay” and an “Unusual visual presentation of the game, inspired by the ZX Spectrum”. Only one of these statements is true and it has nothing to do with the plot or how it plays. The moment you start this game, it’s obvious that its art style is inspired by 8 colour palette of the ZX Spectrum and at times, Deep Ones can be beautiful in its own way. It’s just a shame that that’s the only positive thing about this game.
In Deep Ones you play as a diver who’s aboard a submarine when you’re attacked by a giant red octopus. Abandoning ship, you sink to the bottom of the ocean and must set off across the sea bed to rescue yourself. Along the way, you’ll fight off deadly sea creatures with your harpoon gun, leap from bubble to bubble across deep chasms and meet an army of ghost pirates. This all might sound very exciting but in actual fact, Deep Ones is anything but.
There’s deep routed issues with a lot of the content in this game. At times, the game kills you cheaply and without warning like dropping a platform on your head. This wouldn’t be such an issue if the checkpoint system employed here was at all intuitive or consistent. In some sections, there are checkpoints regularly. That’s fine. In others, they’re spaced out with a mass of enemies to kill followed by a testing, insta-death platforming section between them. Die and you’ll have to do the whole lot again. The checkpoints before boss battles in Deep Ones seem to always require you to travel some distance before reaching the boss again for some unknown reason. Why not just stick them next to the boss battle instead of asking players to walk for a minute first? Other checkpoints are hidden off to one side of the screen meaning you have to travel out of the way to activate them, if you spot them at all.
The combat isn’t much better either. For the majority of the game, the diver uses his Harpoon gun to defeat crabs, puffer fish, ghost pirates and more. The diver can’t fire his weapon while jumping and when on the ground, there’s a small delay after pressing fire before the harpoon is released which is irritating to say the least. Add to that that you can only fire one harpoon at a time (the harpoon will only fire again once one has left the screen or has hit something), the combat begins to feel like fighting your way through treacle. Thankfully, the vast majority of enemies you face in Deep Ones are as stupid as the checkpoint system. Melee enemies mindlessly (and more often than not, slowly) walk towards you meaning you just need to stand still and fire away at them until they die. When you do meet foes with ranged attacks, defeating them is as simple as getting close to them because there’s an inbuilt action that means they back away from you if you get too close. Jump over a bullet or 2 and you can just watch as your opponent walks themselves off a cliff. Dumb. During a section of Deep Ones, your ranged attacks are taken from you and you’re reduced to doing only melee attacks. This section is infuriatingly difficult compared to the rest of the game. It’s less of a difficulty spike as it is as difficulty cliff face that you run into, face first.
To mix things up, Deep Ones does include sections that feel like a simplistic Shoot-‘em-up where you ride on the back of a sea horse to escape a danger that’s chasing you. These brief reprisals from the mundane combat and platforming are some of the only enjoyable moments of this game but even they outstay their welcome long after they stopped being fun. They’re just too long and run out of ideas before you’ve outrun the danger.
That “Compelling and philosophical storyline” that was promised? I must have played a different version of Deep Ones than the one that BURP! Games were describing because I found the plot is virtually non-existent. Aside from a rare text box telling you what to do next, there’s virtually no indication of what’s actually happening. One minute you’re fighting a boss pirate and the next you’re piloting a ghost pirate ship while fighting other ghost pirates? Wait? What? Perhaps I’m not philosophical enough to understand the social commentary and narrative intricacies of fighting off a bunch of sharks circling above before being chased by a giant shark through a tunnel. Or maybe the plot is just utter toilet. I suspect it’s the latter.
Deep Ones is one of the most unintuitive games I’ve ever played that’s constantly undermining itself whenever it starts to become enjoyable. The lack of narrative depth, the confused and cheap level design, the shoddy check-point system, the 1 dimensional combat and the general lack of polish make this a difficult game to recommend to anyone. It’s drowning in issues. The visuals, making great use of the ZX Spectrum inspirations, are the games only saving grace but they’re hardly worth suffering through the plethora of issues this game has in order to experience them.
Deep Ones is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS Vita (review version) and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: BURP! Games
Publisher: BURP! Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For more information, please see our review policy.