So this game kinda gave me Carrion vibes, a game I reviewed earlier, crossed with Spelunky with its 2D exploration, and if you add a finishing touch of survival horror, then you’ll get Hidden Deep. The primary game mode at hand is a story mode, with a general mission to mission level structure. There appears to be a sprawling map, at some points the game will drop you into new areas and occasionally they intersect with previously explored areas, which allows you to approach them with new toys you’ve gained along the way. One of the toys at the forefront of gameplay is an infinite ammo Grapple Hook gun, which is used to traverse the cavernous locales deftly.
When I say the game is similar to Spelunky, it’s because level layouts are quite vertical, and fall damage or running into walls too quickly is extremely lethal. The slow, methodical approach to scouting, whether it be using a geoscanner or a drone to look ahead, really tells players to play carefully. Especially so, considering each mission has an allotted number of lives you can burn through before you must restart from the very beginning. There is no infinite lives mode or anything of that nature, but I think once you instill in yourself that this really isn’t a run-n-gun fast-paced action game, the frustration slowly subsides. It also helps accentuate some solid Survival-Horror elements, as you find your resource management in terms of ammo, medkits, etc being pretty tight.
That being said, there were many times in my playthrough where the controls felt extremely finicky, be switching between tools, aiming, or even the game just properly registering button presses. Often I would need to spam press and hold at contextual points, such as a ledge, to get it to do the proper action. Sometimes I’d try things at what I would call at a relatively normal pace, only to find my input didn’t register aaaaaaand dead. From that moment, I felt the need to slow down all of my jumps near anything remotely precarious to a crawl, because there was a high chance that the input would just fail on me. Thanks to that bits of the platforming would become pretty frustrating. This admittedly bummed me out because for a while, I felt like I was at odds with the game and that at any point, the game would just refuse to work with me and punish me for no reason. Eventually, I got over it, but sometimes it feels a bit like the game is always halting your forward momentum.
There’s also times where the game forces you into very precarious positions that give you little room to get back to even footing only to ambush you with enemies and leave you helpless to defend yourself. A huge downside you have to work around is the fact that you ONLY have firearms at your disposal and zero melee abilities or weapons. This made me rely heavily on the grapple hook to stay mobile while allowing me to shoot. The problem is that the grapple hook isn’t this snappy tool you can use to Spider Man rappel through the skies so… there’s some give and take for your expectations.
The last major hurdle I had to deal with was the very intentionally dim lighting surrounding every environment. For the most part, the game does a good job of leveraging that claustrophobic feeling without completely blinding the player to what’s ahead. Additionally, the use of scan-ball drone helps to map out the immediate area so you don’t need to feel obligated to make leaps of faith. But occasionally, with all the visual clutter that can be on screen, or corpses blending into the background, it can be easy to get confused and killed for it.
In terms of the good, I loved how the game peppers in quite a few really neat tools for traversal and puzzle solving that often require careful aiming, clever use of the environment, and mastery of the game’s physics engine. I also appreciated some of the metroidvania aspects of putting on different worker uniforms such as an engineer to access new abilities and interactions in the world. It also made whenever they gave you a new character to swap between in a level with a slightly different kit feel those advantages and disadvantages all the more as well and making you have to find how to complement both.
I’m unsure how much more the developers will invest into multiplayer options in the future, but as of now there is a separate mode of challenges that can accommodate up to four players split-screen. I was able to test it using steam remote play. There are several game modes that range from more objective based get to a location, to a more survival protect the point, to killing enough monsters type modes. When we got it working, the two player co-op was pretty fun. It was a tad frustrating that we couldn’t turn off friendly fire freely, as it made it extremely difficult to coordinate without either person taking control, or just constantly prone to make room for the other. We did see one of the game modes did automatically exclude friendly fire, so it was perplexing that this wasn’t an option to toggle. Unfortunately, the remote play suddenly stopped working and since then, I’ve been unable to host without the screen turning completely white for the other player. The sound and gameplay is functional, but no matter how much we messed with the resolution, graphics, full screen, etc, we couldn’t fix the visuals.
I really like the ideas in terms of the amount of tools the game eventually gives you, in terms of exploration, as well as the general gloomy, desolate, dark atmosphere that Hidden Deep achieves. Over time, I’m excited to see if the controls and game feel can be further refined as the story campaign reaches completion. As of now, I think it’s a mixed bag. The potential is definitely there, and I think for more hardcore players, there’s just enough meat and neat concepts to satisfy. Unfortunately, I had too many frustrations with clunky game feel and controls to give it the seal, but don’t let that make you entirely overlook it. It just needs a little more polish to really shine. I can’t wait to see where it goes on full release.
Hidden Deep is being developed by Cogwheel Studios.
Available on Steam for $24.99.
A review copy was provided by the developer.
hellfirebam thinks you should key an eye on Hidden Deep.