What’s your phobia? I know, you are good, but what is it? High buildings? Swim in infested water of sharks? Clowns? I admit that I have the Heebie-Jeebies when it comes to speleology. Above all, you know, sneak in a small passage in a dark cave, without knowing what is on the other side. Do you share this fear? You will be triggered by Hidden Deep.
Hidden Deep is a 2D action puzzle game. It takes place in a maze of mining tunnels at a mile under the ocean floor. Strange things happening and a team of researchers is sent to investigate. Nearly two years later, they are silent. Your job is to save the survivors and solve the mystery of what happened.
You start the game as a Murphy, a scout. Murphy descends into the tunnels of an absolute black. He – and you, the player – must complete a series of objectives. These include restoring the feeding of the elevators and saving the survivors, who then join your team. Each goal includes a series of subtasks, and almost all involve the exploration of tunnels filled with puzzles. Of course, tunnels also house deadly creatures.
To survive, you start with some simple tools. You have a pistol, a grappling gun… and that’s about everything. Finally, you find useful objects like explosives and important machinery parts. When you save Paxton, the engineer, you have access to a better weapon. Some time after put the elevators turned on, you also put your hand on heavy machinery. Of course, its use has a cost. There are real surprises and spoilers hidden in the tunnels, I let you discover.
A large part of Hidden Deep is to solve puzzles and use the tools you have. Just about everything in Hidden Deep can kill you, and will probably do it. Small drops of a slightly high edge will do it. Some attacks too much of a flying creature, or swing a little too strong against a rock wall… They will make you all fall. Hidden Deep does a great job by gradually expanding your exploration options. This can be an incredibly difficult game. There is not much room for imprecision. Even if there are no soullike type mechanisms at all, there is a little satisfaction with the Dark Souls to finally cross a difficult area.
By the way, the levels of Hidden Deep prove how well-designed and hand-made areas are much better than the levels generated procedurally. Especially for a play based on suspense and tension, well-constructed levels are important.
As he said at a game that takes place at one kilometer underground, Hidden Deep is dark. Darkness is scary and oppressive. Finally, bring electricity or a little light in an area is a real relief. In terms of artistic direction, Hidden Deep lives somewhere next to being a pixel art game, but there is enough detail to make the environments effective.
Subtle ambient music does a great job to add to the exploration voltage. The sound design is also well done, with lots of spongy organic noises for creatures and beautiful effects of weapons and mechanical machines. Human characters are effectively animated. There is a quantity of spare voice from radio chat, but most humans are silent protagonists.
Hidden Deep is already in anticipated access on Steam in pretty good shape. As will change in the coming months, the minor problems I met could disappear before the final version. My biggest complaint concerned the control of the mouse and keyboard of the game. I really hope that developers will consider adding the controller’s support because I think the game is natural for that. Some controls – jump with the space bar, especially when combined with a Shift key – are a bit slow, annoying and frustrating. The game also requires a little precision, which would be so easier with a joystick.
I would also like to see some difficulty options, so that the focus can be placed on the exploration and resolution of puzzles. It can be so easy to die that the momentum of moving through the tunnels can be difficult to maintain. At least, the game often records, and you do not usually lose too much progress when you die. Hidden Deep would be a nightmare if it was a roguelike.
I really appreciated – if an abject phobic terror can be described as fun – the design and balance of the puzzles and action of Hidden Deep. He does something a little different. Although it is not located in space, there is a tense sensation, filled with darkness, similar to that of an extraterrestrial, to move in the tunnels. You never know what you will meet. I can not wait to see how Hidden Deep develops.