Reviews

Deep Blue Sea 2

Thomas Cross

Everything reeks of sameness.


Deep Blue Sea 2

Publisher: The Game Equation
Players: 1
Price: $16.95
Platform: PC
ESRB: Everyone
Developer: The Game Equation
Release Date: 2010-04-01
URL

Deep Blue Sea 2 is sadly not the sequel to the awful 2001 shark monster movie starring LL Cool J and Thomas Jane. This is actually a bit unfortunate because that would have made for an amazing game. Deep Blue Sea 2 is a gem-swapping game shoved into a storybook narrative. The gem-swapping takes place underwater, somewhere among a chain of tropical islands. The narrative follows the hero, Melissa, as she searches for her missing sister.

It’s not a terribly exciting plot, and the world it takes place in isn’t a terribly exciting world. This is despite the fact that everything looks like it was cut from an exciting Choose Your Own Adventure book staring Agent Arthur. The colors are bold and bright and what artwork there is (that isn’t gem-based) is simple and inviting. The problem with the world, story, and even play of Deep Blue Sea 2 is that they forget to do what the best casual, short play session games do best: they don’t create a strong, unforgettable set of hooks to hold the player’s attention.

At the center of Deep Blue Sea 2 is the simplest of mechanics: swap blocks so that at least three match up, all so that you can drop special glowing blocks off the bottom of the board, scoring points, collecting gold, and earning experience. Every dive comes with a time limit, measured by how much air your diver can hold per dive. When you run out of air, the level is over, though you can still progress to the next dive if you’ve earned enough treasures.

If that sounds just a little bit complicated, that’s because it is. There’re also a whole host of obstacles and “bad” blocks, from ice-cubes, to chains, to immovable obstacles. To combat these difficulties, you’ll unlock a series of special powers, some unique to a certain character, some common to all. That’s another thing: there are different divers who glom onto your quest as you travel. You’ll soon have a whole roster of willing divers, who come with their own attributes and powers. Divers all earn different amounts of treasure at different rates, which can then be spent at a dive shop for one shot stackable items, vital for long dives full of obstacles and dangerous traps. To top it all off, as part of a bizzare story contrivance, the player is given an ancient undersea artifact that allows the entire game board to be spun. Thus, the question of which way (up, down, left, or right) is the fastest exit route for any glowing treasure becomes a question of paramount importance.

This is all well and good, but none of it ever comes together or gels in a way that satisfies. Early on in the game, Melissa encounters the owner of a local maritime museum who sets her on the path to finding her lost sister. Once his museum is cleared, players can return to take part in that bane of casual games, the I Spy-like object hunt. Players are tasked with searching for random nautical items and clicking on them. If you click on enough of them, you’ll get money or items. Ignoring the already dubious charms of such a game mode, this game’s object hunting is especially dull. Every single round takes place in the same room, using the same items. The only difference between each round is which items are highlighted and which aren’t.

Everything reeks of sameness. The game’s mechanics obfuscate the simple fun to be had in matching up different colored blocks or sets of blocks: it takes a good, simple thing, and muddles up all of that fun. The game wants to be cute; it wants to create a wonderful, exciting world of magic, undersea treasure, and fantastical exploration. After all, our hero is chasing after her sister, who may or may not have turned into a mermaid and who might be residing in some kind of magical underwater city.

None of that story matters. The people and places of Deep Blue Sea 2 haven’t enough personality to draw you into the potentially entertaining story of lost sisters and magic races of sea people. The story and the game are so divorced from each other that I was always surprised when a new storybook sequence (again, quite cute, in its way) expounded a bit more on the plight of Melissa and her quest. In game, each block is some kind of undersea creature. Fish, seahorses, crabs, and more all stare at you mournfully. When you mouse over one of these lonesome creatures, their eyes bug out and their faces light up. It’s a nice little touch, but one that doesn’t extend to the rest of the game. The music is dull and almost instantly repetitive, the special abilities don’t feature the flashy, bright look of the characters and storybook scenes, and the game loses steam after a few hours.

A game with such simple, pared down charms needs to have an incredibly solid core, but it also needs all of its extraneous bits to mesh with that core experience. That’s what typifies games like Plants vs. Zombies and Meteos. Their core gameplay is almost endlessly entertaining, but the trappings of that game aren’t too shabby either (though PvZ beats Meteos by a lot in this department). Deep Blue Sea 2 might be a great game for a gamer that doesn’t look for depth or substance in their games. It’s a fleeting diversion at best and even an undemanding gamer might look it askance after a few hours.

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