Submerged Review

By Marc Hollinshead, 1 year ago
The ID@Xbox program is rather fond of giving us titles that take on a 2D style and they regularly fall into the platforming genre or something similar. A lot of these games have been great, but for some people it may feel a bit much. Many gamers find their enjoyment in adventure oriented titles so it's come as a nice change that one of the latest games to come out of the program is Submerged. This game takes a more slower paced approach to its gameplay, but is it worth checking out, or should it sink to the bottom of the depths?

Say hello to Miku and TakuSay hello to Miku and Taku

Submerged has you playing the role of a young girl called Miku, whose name is strangely never actually mentioned in the game in any shape or form. Her brother, Taku (whose name is mentioned in the game multiple times) is wounded and the game begins with them floating on a small fishing boat to an unnamed city to find shelter. At this point, there is no clarification as to who they are and why they are here in the first place, but things become clearer as the game progresses.

Once Taku is given somewhere to rest, Miku's job is to head out into the flooded city on her boat to find ten supply crates that are scattered around at the top of different buildings. This makes up the entirety of the campaign and so it's no surprise that the game is rather short. For what it is, though, it feels just the right length as the gameplay is very simplistic and if it was any longer, it would feel like pointless filler.

This is pretty much what you'll spend most of your time doingThis is pretty much what you'll spend most of your time doing

Submerged has no combat whatsoever so the game's focus is on exploration. Right from the very beginning, the whole city is available for you to explore and there are no skills or extra areas to unlock. While you are given a nudge in the right direction for the first supply crate, you are free to do as you wish. Thankfully, navigating the boat is very simple as it is able to turn swiftly and bumping into anything only causes it to bounce back slightly. This means that any tight spots will cause barely any problems and it's actually very relaxing when zooming through the city and wondering what happened to it.

While riding the boat, you will come across various landmarks and creatures of different shapes and sizes. Whenever you find something new, the game will notify you and add it to your collection via a small picture. Simply by exploring, you will realise that this city has been in ruins for a very long time as giant whales have made it their home and dense foliage has covered all the buildings. As you discover more of the map, you will come across collectibles that are littered all over the place. These will either be boat boosts that help to add to your boat's boosting ability, which is very helpful to travel long distances, or in the form of "secrets". When collected, these twinkling books will show you a picture that will initially not make that much sense. However, as you begin to find more, these somewhat confusing pictures will begin to unravel the events of what happened to the city. Their childlike symbols and shapes are quite charming and pleasing to look at. In Miku's journal, you will find "The City's Story" which will order up the pictures as you find them to tell the story of the city. It definitely gives the collectibles worth as it's interesting to put more of the bigger picture together.

To help find these collectibles, Miku possesses a telescope which will pinpoint any collectibles in the vicinity as you spot them. While this may initially sound helpful, Submerged has no in-game mini-map or radar and there is only the main map that pauses the game when used. The collectible symbols only show up on this map so it will be a matter of looking at the map once you discover a collectible location with the telescope, and then guessing your way there. While this isn't overly hard, it can be a bit of a nuisance when you can't match up where something is on the map and where it actually is in the city itself from your location. The supply crates can also be pinpointed by this method, but notifications are given whenever you go near a building with one on so it's not as awkward if you just want to rush through the campaign.

The more you collect, the more you'll find out about what happened hereThe more you collect, the more you'll find out about what happened here

The other aspect of gameplay aside from the boat is climbing up the buildings in the game. You'll be able to climb up mini ruins with Miku to gather the odd collectible but the main form of climbing comes from the ten buildings with the supply crates. When you reach any one of the buildings, the aim will be to climb to the very top and reach the flashing supply crate. It's extremely simple to climb as you only need the left stick to control Miku when shimmying across ledges and crawling up vines, but this is actually the weakest part of the gameplay. Whereas driving the boat feels more fluid and easy, the climbing feels wooden. Miku runs very slowly without any way of speeding up and it can be a bit frustrating when trying to find the correct way up the buildings. Miku can only stand on wider ledges and some are occasionally hard to see, so expect to hear unusual grunt sounds to indicate Miku's inability to move anywhere. There are also around four or five collectibles on each of the buildings so you will need to be on the lookout for those as well. It's very welcome that once you reach the supplies, you're automatically taken back to Taku, but if you miss any collectibles, you will have to go back and find them as well as making your own way back down. You will eventually adjust to the mechanics and get into the swing of the climbing more, but it's noticeably less polished than the boat gameplay.

Less staring, more climbing!Less staring, more climbing!

Once you've ticked off another box of supplies and made it back to Taku, some more of the siblings' story will play out. Similar to the city's story, small pictures will be shown after progress is made in the campaign. It's a rather sad tale and it's surprising how simple pictures made up of shapes can create something with that much emotion. Although the game starts and ends quickly, there's enough closure to satisfy those who play but it is also left open to imagine what will happen next. It's nothing heart-wrenching, but it is quite touching.

Submerged also features a quaint soundtrack with a few tracks that play over the exploration. There aren't that many, but the soothing piano and violins help to create a somber mood to the flooded city. Graphically, it doesn't convey the sadness as much as it could, but the sea looks calming and the colour palette adds to the loneliness that the city conveys and what Miku is no doubt feeling.

Submerged has just ten achievements and all are given 100G to make up the full 1,000G. The game itself is very simple and so the achievements mirror this. You'll need to explore and do everything there is in the game, so seeing everything and collecting everything will be required. It's not as long as it sounds, though, and you can easily start and complete the game within a day. However, one big gaming no-no did occur in my personal playthrough. Upon reaching the point where I had just one collectible left before being done with the game, it crashed. After numerous restarts, a hard reset of the Xbox and even reinstalling the game, the issue persisted and the only remedy to it was starting a new game. Unfortunately, Submerged only supports one save slot so I had to play through the entire campaign and find all the secrets again to get the last achievement. Despite this, my playtime of the game still only clocked in at just over eight hours with those two playthroughs. So for those who want a quick and easy 1,000G, this is your game.

In the graphics department, the game does have its momentsIn the graphics department, the game does have its moments


Summary

Submerged is an interesting game in that it swaps out conventional combat mechanics for pure exploration. This means that it's not a challenging game, but it is still fairly engaging. Collecting more parts of the puzzle will keep you playing and driving around in the boat is easy to get the hang of. The climbing mechanics can be a little frustrating in comparison, but you will get used to them in time. The mysterious game crash still remains a mystery, but this seems like a very rare occurrence. For its length, it's hard to fully justify its initial asking price, but the content that's there doesn't outstay its welcome or feel overly short. Whether you fancy something less action packed, or just a quick and easy game, Submerged will be an enjoyable journey while it lasts.
3.5 / 5
Positives
  • Fluid boat gameplay
  • Interesting way of telling the story
  • Freedom to explore where you want
Negatives
  • Weaker climbing gameplay
  • Very short
  • Badly timed game crashes!
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent just over eight hours cruising through the city, climbing up buildings and witnessing an unfortunate game crash. Throughout the two playthroughs, all 10 of the game's achievements were earned. A digital code for the game was provided by the developers for the purpose of this review.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.