Submerged: Hidden Depths touts itself as a ‘relaxploration’ game, a title that it certainly lives up to. After sinking countless hours into Elden Ring this week, the chill, cartoon-ish world where you literally cannot die was just the tonic.
Submerged: Hidden Depths Review
The game is a sequel to Uppercut’s 2015 release, Submerged, and follows Miku and her younger brother Taiku as they seek sanctuary in a post-apocalyptic world. Upon reaching a new City, you discover that a mysterious plant, called the Mass (see rot in Kena: Bridge of Spirits or gunk in The Gunk) has infected the land. Your job is to clear each area of blight by gathering hidden seeds and planting them.
The Mass has also created copies of the old inhabitants of the city (before they mysteriously disappeared). As you explore the derelict buildings, you’ll see them frozen in place and time, like something from Pompeii. When you get close, the figures will move into a pose – some point at the sky or cower – making you wonder what really happened there. It’s a nice touch that adds to the mystery in a similar way to The Forgotten City.
Submerged: Hidden Depths is set in small open-world in which you’re free to roam around and explore at entirely your own pace. You hop from island to island in a motor boat, which feels fun to drive and is fairly responsive, if not a little slow at first. Fear not – you can find upgrades throughout the world that give the boat a speed boost, which I’d highly recommend.
The beauty of the game is that you don’t have to have a map cluttered with hundreds of different markers, if you don’t want to. If you like having quest way-points to aim for, simply take out your telescope and survey the land. Doing so will populate your map with new areas of interest. However, if you want to discover secrets organically, that’s okay too – you can take a leisurely boat ride and find things for yourself.
The main story comprises 9 different areas that are all infected by the Mass. Each is a distinct setting (e.g. a cruise ship, hotel, library) which present a combination of simple platforming and light puzzle elements. Controls are simple – perhaps even too simple – you auto climb and jump just by pressing the analogue stick forward. It makes sense to keep things straightforward given the casual nature of the game, but the lack of player verbs makes it hard to find much meaningful interactivity.
Most of the story areas aren’t particularly challenging but scaling up the side of a toppled skyscraper is a lot of fun, particularly given the amazing views. You’ll make your way up by climbing a series of ladders, ledges and vines. Again, there’s no jumping required but you are treated to some Uncharted-style cinematic camera angles that show the sheer scale of the building you’re ascending.
When you reach an area close to a seed, your controller will start vibrating. Then, you have to figure out how to transport the seed safely back down to the site of the Mass by using pulley systems and elevators. Often, you’ll send the seed off in a zip-wire basket and lose sight of it so you’ll need to follow the wire back down to figure out your next move. This adds a welcome challenge to gameplay, although it isn’t difficult by any means.
If you love collecting stuff in video games, you’re in for a treat – Submerged: Hidden Depths has a boatload of them. There are diary entries (56 in total) that tell the full history of the sunken city; exotic flowers; relics; boat parts; costume styles; landmarks and lookout towers. They’re not necessary to complete the game but if you find pleasure in ticking things off a list, it’s worth it. Some collectables are useful to gameplay, (such as the boat parts) and lookout towers which I’d recommend for a great view and as a perfect spot to scout out more areas of interest. Each relic and exotic flower you find can also be displayed back at base on plinths or as decoration.
While it isn’t the most polished game, it’s certainly visually appealing colours; bright orange coral gleams through the turquoise sea; lush green vines wrap around the remnants of the old world, lending a tropical vibe to the islands. The most interesting aspect of the art direction is the crumbling skyscrapers, TV towers and lavish hotels upended in the sea. There’s a hint of The Last of Us here that drives you to learn more about how a whole civilisation met its end.
Submerged: Hidden Depths is a relaxing, vibrant game that encourages exploration at your own pace. Despite some drops in framerate, the world is beautifully realised and provides much for you to discover, even if it is a bit repetitive.