Last week I managed to get my hands on a copy of Submerged. Submerged is a new Indie game by Uppercut Games. It’s the first console game to come from the studio and I was curious to see what they made of it. Young Miku and Taku find themselves in a mysterious, post – apocalyptic city flooded with water. Their parents are nowhere to be seen. You play Miku, who has to take care of her wounded brother. The premise of the game is simple and so is the game itself.
LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN
As the game begins you see older sister Miku and her young brother Taku arrive in the city by boat. At first glance, the surroundings and eerie look of the city look okay and don’t disappoint. Same goes for the soundtrack. It’s not a surprise that the beautiful piano music provided by composer Jeff Van Dyck won the award for Best in Audio at the 2015 Freeplay Festival in Australia. Enough about that, let’s go back to the game! When you set foot in the city you take control of Miku. Your first goal finding a spot to place your brother. He´s visibly hurt and as a player you don’t know what happened to him. You will find out, but I´ll get back to that later. After a good night’s sleep – as good as it gets on a hard floor – you wake up and decide it’s time to find something to stop your brother’s bleeding.
I’M ON A BOAT
With this first assignment, your adventure starts. You have a map to help you explore the city and along the way there are several collectibles. If you look carefully, there are 60 pictograms, 8 animals, 8 landmarks and 26 upgrades for your boat to be found. That’s right, the city is scattered and you are going to have to use your unnatural moving boat. The water looks inviting, I wish Miku could swim in it. When you set foot on land you mostly have to walk, run – really slow, who runs like that? – and climb to get where you need to be. Miku’s movement is stiff, no matter what she does. There never seems to be any urgency to her movement and the animation simply looks off. Sure it was a let-down, but there was more to discover… right?
SLEEP, FIND, BRING BACK AND REPEAT
After your first assignment it becomes clear that this is all you have to do in the game. Taku needs water? You go out and find it, come back, give him water and fall asleep. Taku needs food? Sure! You go out, find it, come back, feed him and fall asleep. Taku needs medicine? You catch my drift. I know it sounds boring, it can get boring, but never boring enough to stop playing. Especially when Miku goes out at night. At night these blueish green bioluminescent algae light up the ocean and you encounter dolphins and whales. Sunset is also beautifully haunting. Asides the scenery, the fact that they may not be alone and Miku seems to sacrifice herself to the point of death, made me keep wanting to play. And there are those unanswered questions right at the beginning… like, where are they and what happened to Taku?
SILENCE IS GOLDEN, PICTURES ARE GOLD
There is no dialogue in the game whatsoever. Makes sense when your brother is in a coma like state because of his injury. Miku says about 10 sentences and when she does it’s in a strange language. The music somewhat makes up for the lack of talking. However, I do think there are too much completely silent moments in the game and – though beautiful – the music gets repetitive. As I´ve mentioned before, even without dialogue, you do find out what happened to Taku. Every time Miku gets back to him with supplies, the story of what happened to both kids is shown through a cave-painting picture book. The conclusion is depressive, man… those kids had a hard time. Remember those 60 pictogram collectibles I talked about earlier? If you collect them all, you can also find out what happened to the city in the exact same way.It’s an effective way of telling the story, if you can make out what the pictures mean.
THIS CAN’T BE IT, RIGHT?
That was the overwhelming feeling I had after finishing Submerged. I don’t mind a bit of mystery, but I needed more answers after those 3 hours I’ve spent playing the game. For example, what exactly happened to the city? Honestly, I was unable to figure out the exact story by just looking at the 60 pictograms. But the most important unanswered question for me was, how did the thing that happens in the end happen? Sure, it’s not like the developers give you nothing. If your only concern is what happens to Miku and Taku, the conclusion is satisfying. For everyone else it’s probably not.
Story-driven games can be great, just look at Telltale’s The Walking Dead or Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. The difference is that there is bigger emotional connection to the characters and the story leads up to a great ending. I could’ve gotten over the not-so-great gameplay and graphics if the ending was worth it. Unfortunately, the game just doesn’t deliver in my opinion. Do you want to try Submerged on your PS4 like I did? Visit the PlayStation Store and use your PlayStation Wallet funds. A tip for our UK readers, you can head over to Mobiletopup.co.uk to order PSN Cards to top the credit in your PlayStation wallet. Don’t forget Submerged is also available for Xbox One and PC users.
There is no challenge to the game, no violence, movement is stiff and unnatural. It kept me entertained for 3 hours. I’ve played worse games, but the ending was a letdown.
The scenery looks best during the shift from day to night and vice versa. The sun hits the buildings beautifully. During the night, when the bioluminescent algae and creatures come out, Submerged looks its best. The rest is subpar.
Though the soundtrack gets repetitive, the piano music is the highlights of Submerged. It perfectly captures the mysterious atmosphere of the entire game.