Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Hidden Deep
Far beneath the ocean floor, something terrible is happening. And the first team sent to check it out has gone dark. Having established a research outpost and infrastructure around it, team one has ceased contact. Taking up the role as a member of the second team sent to find out what happened down in the undersea caves, you must face all manner of creatures and terrors that lurk within… the Hidden Deep.
We shouldn’t take for granted how easily we can get immersed in a game that’s completely unrealistic. Because even the most hardcore simulations are 1000% goofy. Indeed, the harder they try realism, the less realistic it gets. See DayZ and its five dozen systems of hunger, thirst, temperature, and various ailments. Or Battlefield, and its players who leap from a fighter jet to use a sniper rifle only to land back in the cockpit. Realism is just not possible in a video game. Thankfully, this doesn’t detract at all from a ’realistic’ game.
Hidden Deep is very much about realism. The characters are incredibly fragile, must use a lot of equipment to navigate relatively simple environments, and must slowly nudge themselves off a ledge, lest they break every bone that matters. This was a bit of an annoyance at first, but once I got into the flow of the game, it was a delight. I loved the frantic running away from the tiny flying strawberry creature. I loved trying to navigate the grappling hooks without falling to my death or smashing against a wall. It was challenging, engaging, and most importantly, fun.
Non-Wanky Game Recap:
The game is a 2D platformer. You play as a squishy person with a not so powerful firearm, a collection of tools, and one extremely useful grappling gun with infinite rope and hooks. Hidden Deep is about navigating the caves, which usually amounts to running around looking for keys and levers and buttons to push. There are also a handful of creatures that creep about that you need to look out for. Bog standard stuff for survival horror.
The aesthetic of Hidden Deep is great. If I wasn’t looking closely, I would assume the character models were pictures of real people, a la Dong Dong Never Die (surely there’s a better example, but this is all I could think of). The critters are simple, but that makes the experience that much more interesting. It reminded me of the simple monsters in one of my favorite games, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which despite seeming lame, swung back around into being absolutely terrifying. And of course, the mystery of what’s going on and the complete lack of lore made the experience incredibly intriguing.
There is such a thing as too much realism. Hidden Deep has a few aspects that could use some tuning, simply to make the experience a little more fluid. Shimmying down and scrambling up short ledges require you to come to a complete stop before pressing the button, which is a lot more awkward than simply leaping up or walking off the ledge. All the more frustrating is that the hight difference between landing safely and completely breaking your character’s spine is a matter of inches. Which on reflection, as I understand it, is actually pretty true to real life.
How To Fix It:
They don’t need to be doing parkour, but smoothing out the animation sequences in climbing would make the experience a lot easier to get into. Maybe speed up the time between respawns for those of us whose deaths are 99% caused by swinging like Tarzan into a stone cave wall. Beyond that, Hidden Deep is really solid. Hopefully, there is a bit more lore on the way.
I think on some level, devs who try for realism know that it’s going to backfire. There’s just too big a gulf between a virtual world and the real world for there ever to be a good comparison. That said, I think it’s still a noble thing to try for, because the products are just as enjoyable. Hidden Deep may have some parallels in feeling to Happy Wheels, but that just makes the experience that much more fun.
Hidden Deep is planning to release in Early Access sometime in 2022. You can find out more from the Steam page by clicking here.