There’s an undercurrent of sadness that runs throughout Submerged: Hidden Depths.
It’s not all that surprising, really, considering that this is a sequel to Uppercut Games’ Submerged, in which protagonist Miku desperately fought to save her brother Taku in a world swallowed up by water. Despite achieving her goal, it’s clear that life will never be the same for the pair, so all they can do is make the best of the situation. And so playing Submerged: Hidden Depths, you get the sense that you’re re-treading old ground at times. Or perhaps sailing through the same water is more apt.
Submerged: Hidden Depths begins with Miku and Taku finding a promising place to stay and rest. Or at least it will be, once Miku has recovered a mysterious seed that seems to provide power and returned it to its blackened roots. It seems that Miku has a strange affinity with these seeds – or perhaps an affliction? – with her arm sprouting flowers whenever she carries one. In any case, they seem to be key to restoring parts of the world around them, and so working with her brother they set about doing all they can to make it a better place.
Anyone that has played the original Submerged will find the gameplay of Submerged: Hidden Depths very familiar. You explore a fairly open world by boat, and seek out locations where you can disembark. Along the way, there are boat upgrades to collect, relics to plunder, and animals to discover. Upon disembarking from your boat, you’ll take control of either Miku or Taku, depending on what the location has to offer. If it’s just a collectible or two you’ll take control of Taku. And if there’s a seed to reunite with its roots, you’ll take control of Miku.
When it comes to on-foot exploration, it’s as simple as can be. Move Miku or Taku towards a gap and if it can be jumped, they’ll do so automatically. The same goes for climbing and swinging. The only time you’ll have to press buttons if is you want to pick something up or trigger a contraption of some kind. Combined with the fact that there are no enemies in the game, it results in a laid-back experience that’s all about the journey. Though that’s not to say that there isn’t a modicum of challenge.
Some of the run-down locations you explore are complex, with multiple paths leading to dead-ends and others requiring you to pull switches or use your boats to open up new paths. Every once in a while, then, you need to engage the grey matter, and solve a puzzle or two to open up the route to a seed and then get it back to its roots. Complete your goal, and you’ll wake up at your hideout the next morning, pushing the story forward.
While the laid-back and somewhat relaxing nature of Submerged: Hidden Depths is likely to alienate those who seek out a challenge, what is sure to deter more is the way that the story is presented. There’s no English dialogue and no subtitles, so whenever Miku or Taku speak you’re left to try and interpret yourself via the emotions they exhibit. The rest of the story you have to unravel yourself by finding collections of notebook scraps. Though you’ll get the gist of it via images and text displayed after each seed you reunite with its roots.
Playing on PS5 for review, Submerged: Hidden Depths is a fairly nice looking game, with decent character models, nice lighting and impressive water. Some of the locations look a little bland however. DualSense features aren’t abundant, but there’s a nice pulsating effect when you’re near a seed that’s not only helpful, but is also quite a delight to feel.
Free of any combat, and largely of any challenge whatsoever, Submerged: Hidden Depths is the perfect game to relax with. Its colourful visuals and contemplative soundtrack will immerse you in a world that feels sombre yet hopeful, as you explore every nook and cranny on your modest ship. Though for some the action may prove to be too basic. Still, if you’re after a game that you can chill out with while unravelling the fate of a caring sister and her brother, this is well worth checking out.
Submerged: Hidden Depths Review – GameSpew’s Score