I’ve said this before; I don’t do horror games…which is probably why I keep getting given them to review. So, imagine my delight when I found out that this is an explorative horror game. On paper, Reveal The Deep is a 2D pixel art platform-puzzler, neatly cut with horror elements and a pretty heavy story. Yes, I got freaked out by a little 2D puzzler…let’s get all the laughs out now.
I opened the executable, sitting in my Steam library (available now, having passed Steam Greenlight) expecting pretty big things. Word on the grapevine is that Lazy Monday Games are ones to watch. I was slightly taken aback by the fairly bland UI, which I have to say, does this game no justice. However, what followed was something very special and rare indeed – I was gripped from first step to last puzzle.
Let me be clear; I’ve played scarier horrors, I’ve played tougher platformers, but I’ve never come across such a beautifully amalgamated concept encompassing the former two elements. Nor have I played anything quite like this. ‘Reveal The Deep’ shares some parity with clever puzzlers such as instant classic ‘BRAID’ and even has a lovely little homage to Mario’s ghost mechanic and water levels every now and then. This is not to say that this title recycles tired 25 year-old mechanics, no. The developers have lovingly crafted a gripping semi-narrative-driven journey with linear-yet-modular sandbox level design. Confused? You will be.
The bread and butter is exploration through 2D platform-heavy environments, with a smattering of box-pushing, a dash of horror and a sprinkling of key matching. The levels have one entrance and one exit, so progress is linear, but each level has several doors to open which can save you time if, for example, you fall into a pit and would have otherwise had to pretty much navigate the whole level again.
Now for the pièce de résistance: the Reveal mechanic. At the beginning of the first level, a short tutorial takes you through the basic controls, followed by the instruction to press space in order to turn your light on and off. I do so, expecting this to be yet another uninspired torch mechanic – yawn. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Instead, I chuckle as the little pixel diver taps his helmet with a pleasing clunk of steel. The light goes out, but I’m met with a platform and other elements of the environment that weren’t visible before. Further exploration (minor spoiler alert) leads to the discovery that your exploration of the ship is some time after it was sunk by a mysterious event. Switching your helmet light off provides a simple, yet brilliant, pseudo time-travel mechanic, whereby the protagonist gets a view (in sepia, you understand) into the past and the events on board the ship before it sank to its desolate, watery grave. With eerie sounds and visuals available only with the lights out, it could be interpreted that this deep sea diving protagonist is some sort of spirit medium, sent to discover the truth.
Successful completion of the game is dependent on the Reveal mechanic, which also seems to suspend gravity for certain special objects, reduce the jump capability of the diver and stop him being able to shift boxes. This is nicely placed functionality as it means you’re not tempted to attempt the whole game without switching off the light. The anti-gravity mechanic on the special objects provides an extra puzzle layer to portions of level progression.
I can’t really say much more without major narrative-spoilers, but what I will say is that this game is special. Every element of the design is lovingly crafted; from the delightful pixel art, grisly NPCs and creepy chattering voices of the long-since dead when the lights are off, to the notes left by the absentee passengers of the ill-fated ship and the subtle puzzles sitting in the bleak background, waiting to be solved.
What this game lacks however is longevity. Don’t expect a 10-World jump-fest here. It’s you, the mystery to solve and three chapters to do it in. I must admit the only negative thought I had about this game was when it ended. Abrupt? Maybe a little. Mainly though, I was left wanting more of the same. Do note, Dear Reader, that at the time of writing, this game was available to buy for £0.79 (just over a dollar). It’s most definitely worth that – and more.
In conclusion, we haven’t seen the last of Lazy Monday Games, we quite possibly haven’t seen the best. What we have seen is oceans of potential. I, for one, cannot wait to see what they do next.
Positives: Beautifully bleak pixel visuals, creepy well-placed sound design, well-balanced levels, immersive narrative, great puzzle mechanics, excellent time-travel/spirit medium mechanic, great value for money!
Negatives: Short, no real replay value, occasional minor bug (forgivable since it’s early days yet)