Hiccup Studios and Chillingo takes us to the depths of the deep blue sea in Mission: Deep Sea, but is it sink or swim for our friendly turtle Buddy?
As the title suggests Mission: Deep Sea is all about exploration. However, instead of putting you behind the wheel of a submarine, or the flippers of a scuba diver, you take control of Buddy, a friendly giant sea turtle. According to the intro, the year is 2016 and technological advancements in science allows us to control the turtles using some kind of human-to-amphibian mind control device. This of course is just a fun way of packaging what is essentially a turtle simulator.
The game presents you with a 3D underwater world to explore. And Hiccup do a great job of getting the feeling of being underwater just right. The lighting, floating debris, and ancient ruins that emerge from the murky depths coupled with some great underwater sound effects, results in an immersive experience.
To control Buddy you have two options, expert and novice. Expert is set by default, and is an interesting but ultimately annoying multi-touch based control scheme that sees you frantically swiping the screen with both thumbs. The idea is that your thumbs act as Buddy’s flippers. And while in theory it sounds like a great idea, in practice it is a frustrating – not to mention tiring – experience. On booting the game I would recommend changing to the Novice controls which simply gives you two buttons, one on the right for forward and one on the left for reverse. Accelerometer is then used for turning and diving, and works very much like a flight sim.
Once you have familiarised yourself with the controls it’s on to your first mission, where you must tag biological waste barrels with a magnetic buoy so they can be retrieved. Each one appears on your radar and it’s a case of searching them out and swimming up close to activate the buoys. On your second mission things get more interesting as you are required to locate a giant manta ray and attach a GPS tracking device to him, because he’s moving around it adds an extra level of challenge, and while it’s not difficult, it’s my favourite mission due in part to the great animation of the Manta.
The next two levels require you to search a ancient ruin at the bottom of the sea, first you must locate 5 missiles that have sunk near the ruin and take pictures of them for later retrieval, the next you must provide the archeological department with high quality photos of some of the ancient reliefs. The fifth level is probably the most challenging. Under a time limit you must search an underwater laboratory for a missing diver and bring them back to safety. The key here is to remember your way back as well as being careful not to drop the diver.
Unfortunately, just as the game gets going… its over! Yes that’s right, the game only has five levels. Sure you can replay them for faster times and collect/eat a set amount of JellyFish for bonus points [being careful not to eat the plastic bags by mistake], but regardless of the $2.99 price tag, you really expect more missions. The game leaves you on a “to be continued” cliffhanger… hopefully these will be through free updates and not paid for, as to me the game feels rushed out and incomplete as it stands.
I feel Hiccup tried a little to hard on the storyline and not enough on the gameplay, and what it is that is fun about the game. I think they missed a trick here and should instead have gone down the route of casual turtle simulator (along similar lines to Endless Ocean on the Wii), where you can simply swim in a sandbox style open sea world, documenting other sea life at your leisure – much like the Manta ray level presented here.
Mission: Deep Sea then is a mixed bag. On the one hand [or flipper] it looks great, but on the other it just doesn’t offer enough content, instead teasing you with some interesting gameplay ideas but a short lived experience. Right now it feels like a demo of a more complete game, and so unless Hiccup can bulk up the game with more missions, then I can’t fully recommend it as it stands.
Mission: Deep Sea is out now for $2.99