At first glance, the story of the game might seem sparse. Granted, some might be put off by the minimalistic approach, but there is lore to sink your teeth in. After the introduction to our protagonists, you take control of the sister and will do so for the most part. A mysterious vine-like spiral clings to her arm, giving her strange abilities to fight the encroaching black tendrils that entwine around all the buildings you see. Miku and Taku seem to be searching for a new home for currently unknown reasons. After a brief tutorial on the game’s controls and a sense of what the sister can do, you are set loose upon the watery, open world.
Upon completing the tasks required to finish the main campaign, you get glimpses of how the siblings got here and what were the root causes for their hard past. For those so inclined, the story of the world can be traced back by the journal entries you find scattered about. Each of the main locations you visit to complete the campaign has 4 journals that expand your knowledge of the past. These are not necessary for finishing the game but finding them will add immensely to your immersion. Here we aren’t talking about story immersion, and rather for overall enjoyment, you can receive for exploring what the developers left for you. Finding all the hidden paths you can take is a sort of minigame all on its own.
Collectables synergize very well with the exploration themes of the game. The level design is superb, allowing you can go through locations without much hassle, and if you’re captivated by the world, you can branch away from the main path, collecting to your heart’s content. The journal entries hold the biggest incentive, but they aren’t all that’s up for grabs. There are relics to dredge up, stylish outfits and hairstyles for the sister, boat parts that enhance the length of time you can use your boost, as well as purely cosmetic skins for your trusty transport. The care the developers put into the spacing and placement of these optional pieces, we believe, deserves a large highlight.
Need more exploration in your life? Have a look at our Before Your Eyes Review.
On the game’s steam page over here, you can spot the words “relaxsploration.” And that’s exactly what you get. You see, there are no enemies that can kill you and send you back to your most recent checkpoint. The world is undoubtedly post-apocalyptic, and yet, there is no one that can fight you to the death. Everywhere you go, striking, vivid red marks your path, which leaves little wiggle room and confusion about where to go next.
When on your boat, your main navigation tool is a telescope. It automatically scans any nearby objects of interest. However, be cautious when the dynamic weather conditions reduce visibility, the telescope will pick up on things in your actual visible range.
After mooring your boat at campaign locations, you can implement two different play styles. You can follow the easy-to-follow main path, which will take you to the end goal and off the level, or you can indulge in the game’s main feature and explore. The lack of enemies can really be a breath of fresh air as you traverse ledges, hanging ropes, pipes, and ladders. This specific quality of the game may be its biggest selling point. The sheer accessibility to the platforming is something to behold. Not many titles can boast their capabilities of being an entry point into gaming, but in our opinion Submerged, Hidden Depths may be one of them. Having easy but not overly simplistic controls gives the game a huge advantage over other “entry titles.” Environment traversal is so seamless without insulting your intelligence that it elevates the gameplay experience a head above other competitors.
Veteran players beware! While the traversal system aims for ease of use, it might get on your nerves. The freedom of titles like Assassin’s Creed, where you can jump off wherever and whenever you’d like isn’t present here. By no means is this a huge plus for the design, but experienced players may be ticked off.
The first thing that stands out is the voice acting isn’t in English. Not exactly. It is in an approximation of what it might sound after the world ends. Miku’s voice lines are delivered so well that you might not even catch the resemblance to English until the actress says a modern word. The next standout design choice is how collectibles and objects of interest are highlighted through sound.
If Miku gets close to a context-sensitive object like a journal entry or an item needed to progress a female chorus rises like a wave to let you know that there’s something deserving of attention. Singing isn’t present only in exploration, however. It also sets the mood when traveling or watching a story cutscene. Quiet and somber songs full of melancholy are often your companion on your voyage through the waves. In rare cases, you might even encounter the roar of a bear or the screech of a relaxing seal.
Making this Submerged Hidden Depths review was an exploration into a calming side of gaming rarely visited. The hyper-focus on violence, shooting, hacking, and slashing in games is always prevalent. The other extreme sees simple games that might be targeted towards a younger audience and rarely does a game balance these extremes so well. Miku and Taku’s adventure is wholesome and simple to digest. It does not require the player to keep control schemes in their head or to feel like their hand is being held the entire way. Instead, this installment of Submerged asks that you lean back, hop on your boat and look around the peaceful world full of things to find.
How did you find our Submerged Hidden Depths review? Did you have a good time relaxsploring? Let us know in the comments below.