GamingReview: Hidden Deep

Review: Hidden Deep

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Being trapped underground is no one’s ideal scenario, but add in the fact that you’re several kilometres beneath the ocean floor armed with a grappling hook and a gun whilst you attempt to recover members of a research facility from the creatures lurking in the damp caverns, then it quickly becomes a horror movie.

Hidden Deep is a richly dark and intriguing sci-fi story that feels like it has been ripped straight from 80s and 90s horror media. With inspirations taken from Half-Life, Aliens and The Thing, it’s easy to tell exactly the tribute that Hidden Deep is paying—and it does so incredibly well.

You play as a member of a search-and-rescue team called Murphy who has been tasked with finding a group of researchers who had been investigating anomalies in the caverns under the ocean floor. After 681 days of research, the facility suddenly lost contact, and they are now sending Murphy down to find out exactly what is going on inside the cave systems.

Hidden Deep employs a realistic style to both its art as well as its in-game physics. Set as a 2D side-scroller, each cavern and cave system you enter has its own set of unique features you’ll need to quickly adapt to as you play. With the assistance of only your grappling hook and pistol for the first cavern, learning exactly how the physics behaves is essential if you want to make it far into the caves. Jumping off a ladder from a height you assume wouldn’t harm you in any other game will only prove you wrong as you’re faced with a death screen and poor Murphy’s ragdoll body collapsing in a bloody pile on the rocky ground. As if to add insult to injury, Murphy’s blood remains on the ground as a sick reminder of your failures and a foreboding warning to not suffer the same fate again. There is without a doubt a slight learning curve here, but you do get used to the physics as you begin to utilise Murphy’s abilities in the caves more often.

It becomes difficult to discern what blood is yours and what isn’t…

The cave systems of Hidden Deep are all interactable in some way or another through careful exploration. Aside from your grappling hook, you’ll also quickly find uses for Terra-Scanners which allow you to scan the ground beneath you for caves that would otherwise be inaccessible—and then with the use of explosives, make your way into these hidden rooms. As you progress even further and find members of the lost team of researchers, their individual skills will also come in handy as you can switch out to them and utilise heavy machinery like tunnel-borers, cranes and drones.

Your grappling hook will quickly become your best friend

The enemies you’ll come across simply scream 80s and 90s horror media. From swift-flying alien bugs that can get quickly overwhelming if you don’t kill them quickly to the larvae that they spit at you, you’ll need to form a strategy quickly if you want to save your lives and your ammo for larger beasts lurking in the depths. One of the only downsides is the hitboxes on the enemies themselves—if you tend to be inaccurate with weapons, you may struggle to take down these enemies swiftly and effectively and you may end up wasting a lot of precious ammo.

Murphy’s fate is sealed, there’s no getting out of this one…

In the base story mode, you’ll find three basic difficulties to choose from. Expedition is the easiest and has a focus more on the exploration of the caves and the story rather than the enemies within them—fewer enemies will appear, and your spelunking will be a lot easier if you wish to experience the story mostly uninterrupted. Deep Exploration is the default difficulty chosen at the beginning of the game—a normal number of enemies will appear, and you will still be able to fully immerse yourself in the story. Intense Exploration is exactly what it sounds like on the tin—you’ll be allowed much fewer deaths in this mode and a higher number of enemies will spawn to make your life hell.

With well over 20 hours of gameplay in the story mode alone, you also have the option to play through a challenge mode which has a wide array of its own settings to choose from. These challenges range from finding data disks within a randomly generated cave system to co-op split screen challenges that require you to escape the caves together. The addition of these challenge modes adds so much depth and fun to an already enjoyable experience and are fun to dive into if you feel frustrated from the main story mode.

The ambience and music also work wonders to add to the already ominous atmosphere. As you explore, you’ll hear the caves reverb your footsteps, gunshots and even the buzz of the alien creature’s wings. Some of the enemies are even attracted to your equipment and the noises and lights they create, so taking extra steps of caution is absolutely required.

Hidden Deep is an incredibly well created indie horror with all the hallmarks of classic 80s and 90s horror and sci-fi media. The realistic physics and movement as you platform is a crucial addition that is done incredibly well and lends itself well to the use of the grappling hooks and other machinery. The story itself is intriguing and makes you want to continue playing simply to figure out what the origins of the alien life in the cave are and what really happened to your team down in the depths—and if you can really save them before you’re trapped down there too.

SUMMARY

+Interesting story and a great homage to 80s and 90s horror and sci-fi media
+Well over 20 hours of gameplay
+Challenge modes bring new and fun mechanics
+Opportunity for co-op
+Tools and abilities are fun to experiment with
+Art style and realistic physics animations are done incredibly well and add lots of depth

-Slight learning curve with the physics and gameplay but it's far from impossible
-Hitboxes on enemies can often be small and killing them requires pin-point precision
-Losing all of your lives resets your level progress which some people will find annoying

(Reviewed on PC, ports for Xbox and Nintendo Switch in progress)
Jordan Kirkpatrick
Jordan Kirkpatrick
21, Scottish, journalism student. Loves gaming, pop culture and anime.

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+Interesting story and a great homage to 80s and 90s horror and sci-fi media <br /> +Well over 20 hours of gameplay <br /> +Challenge modes bring new and fun mechanics <br /> +Opportunity for co-op <br /> +Tools and abilities are fun to experiment with <br /> +Art style and realistic physics animations are done incredibly well and add lots of depth <br /> <br /> -Slight learning curve with the physics and gameplay but it's far from impossible <br /> -Hitboxes on enemies can often be small and killing them requires pin-point precision <br /> -Losing all of your lives resets your level progress which some people will find annoying <br /> <br /> (Reviewed on PC, ports for Xbox and Nintendo Switch in progress)Review: Hidden Deep