Developed By: Sometimes You
Published By: Sometimes You
Category: Arcade Action Platformer
Release Date: 4.11.2018
I’ve been playing a lot of games from publisher Sometimes You over the last few months, most of which are some sort of puzzle game. When I saw their intro graphic flash when I loaded up Deep Ones for the Nintendo Switch for the first time, I thought I’d be in for more of the same. Instead I was treated to one of the most beautiful retro-styled platformers I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
Deep Ones plays like most platformers, so in that regard it’s not especially original. The player controls a diver whose submarine is destroyed by a kraken-looking creature and ends up alone in the depths of the sea. The first area of the game is platforming only for a few minutes, but eventually the diver comes across a gun, so now he can shoot. So, again, like most action platformers, the diver now has two actions; jump and shoot. It’s fairly simple, but the levels are laid out in such a way as to maximize the challenge of both. Some enemies cannot be shot and must be simply bypassed through jumping, while some require you to jump to dodge their fire while returning shots of your own.
Deep Ones doesn’t really have levels. Progressing through the game the diver passes distinct way markers that serve as respawn/save points which also heal him. Every once in a while there will be a special challenge which I guess we’ll count as a boss fight. The very first one is the one I found the most impressive and fun; jumping on the back of a seahorse to outrun a giant shark. The game’s pace picks up considerably during the chase, which is a welcome change. Because if the game has a flaw, it’s that the pacing can sometimes be frustratingly slow.
The game plays like an old NES classic, and I think that’s a conscious choice on the part of the developers. The diver doesn’t move especially fast across the screen, and he has to wait several seconds between firing shots. There is no rapid-fire option here. Jumping can be similarly cumbersome; once the diver lands, you have to wait a beat or two before jumping again. This can be especially frustrating in platforming challenges involving jumping across bubbles. If you don’t time the beats right, the bubbles just pop and down you fall to your doom. I often had trouble with these segments because of this, but I think the game has been slowed down a little for a good reason; so you can see all the absolutely gorgeous pixel artwork in the background.
If you like the look of 8-bit style art, you are going to love the look of Deep Ones. It doesn’t take the traditional approach of coloring in each sprite, but rather gives you everything in outline. This makes the dominant color of the whole game black, of course, but contrasting the solid-black field with the vibrant colors used for the outlines accomplishes the seemingly-impossible task of making the game both colorful and dark at the same time. The character models and background art are very intricately detailed and create some simply breathtaking views of sunken pirate ships and the flora and fauna of the deep sea. The game is simply a joy to see.
The music is similarly old-school. It is alternately slow and moody during slower sections of gameplay and quick during action sequences, but it always maintains a slightly sinister tone that effectively conveys the dark atmosphere the game is striving to achieve. There isn’t any particular piece that gets stuck in your head for hours after you put the game down, but it fits the game perfectly and doesn’t distract from anything happening on the screen.
Deep Ones plays equally well on a TV or in the Switch’s undocked mode. There are no touchscreen or motion controls that would require or favor one style of play over another, it’s just a straight-up old school platformer. Personally, I preferred playing the game undocked; I found that the pixel art looked a little sharper on the smaller screen as opposed to my TV. I also just prefer to play my Switch undocked in general, so that might have something to do with it, too. I guess what I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter how you play Deep Ones, just do it.
TL;DR: (Mostly) well-designed gameplay and gorgeous 8-but graphics. Play it now.