Pack your harpoon! The Deep by 3G Studios snares treasure hunters by pretending to be a mere warm-water frolic, but quickly reveals itself as an impressively deep adventure game done up in the style of 1994’s beloved Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo. You’ll hunt treasure, explore aquatic ruins, and find some old guy’s false teeth. Before you know it, you’ll be snared like the main course at Red Lobster.
The Deep’s story scenario offers an impossibility: What if those seizure-inducing ‘CONGRATULATIONS U WON!!!!’ website ad banners actually yielded something beyond the latest Trojan virus? What if you had the opportunity to stuff your paperwork down your boss’ throat and make a beeline for sun and fun?
We’re going to need a bigger boat.
When you arrive at Sapphire Keys, you’re quickly recruited as an underwater hound dog. Relaxation isn’t in your immediate future, unless you’re really into swimming with sharks. But hey, tangoing with a giant squid is more exciting than tallying up how many paper clips you can steal from your coworker before he notices.
The world of The Deep is centered around a few hub islands, each of which have several diving missions you can attempt. Each island’s key crazy person requires you to find some item or another, which in turn opens up more diving missions. You will also find other vitals in an area, like a flashlight that’s necessary for deep-sea exploration, a harpoon gun, or explosives that let you blast rock barriers to rubble.
Going back to previously-conquered areas in The Deep is in fact necessary for getting ahead. Finding explosives means you can go back to an old diving ground and blow up that pesky rock you saw out of the corner of your eye the first time around. Or you can upgrade your flippers to increase your speed, and fight against the strong currents that kept you out of that mysterious niche you noticed.
The Deep’s salty merchants will upgrade your diving equipment if you gather enough gold. Upgrading your wetsuit will give you extra resistance to attacks from hostile sealife. An upgraded harpoon will really give a shark something to think about. And, most importantly, oxygen tank upgrades will let you stay underwater for longer– doubly important because your oxygen tank serves as your life meter in all respects. Your tank’s O2 level ticks off with each passing second, and making contact with a killer fish will cause a dramatic drop.
But if you’re destined to die in the briny depths, at least it won’t be boring. You’ll occasionally dive in the still waters of some tourist-safe reef for babies, but more often you’ll find yourself in a sunken ruin, or even the corpse of a Russian nuclear sub. The Deep’s graphics are immensely detailed, if not outright discordant in some scenarios. The sea life is painted in every imaginable color, and the fauna glides around with crazy eyes and twisted facial expressions. Imagine Bikini Bottom in an alternate universe, where Spongebob Squarepants and his friends are completely wasted all the time.
Loads of tropical locations to swim through.
The Deep’s busy graphics can be a bit problematic: They’re ideal for hiding gold and treasure, but it’s not as much fun when you have to peer through the coral to find switches and gates that are vital to your progress. Thankfully, the controls are not a problem. Since the game takes place underwater, there are no jumps to worry about. If the precision feels a bit off at times, it’s not a big deal unless you’re in the immediate vicinity of an enemy. More often than not, however, there is ample room to move around.
Though The Deep lacks the depth and atmosphere of titles with a similar pedigree, like Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, it’s a heck of a dive regardless. If you want an iPhone/iPod Touch adventure game that takes you someplace fun and colorful, pick this one up. And don’t bother with your own music this time around: The soundtrack is one of the best parts.