Deep Blue (TurboGrafx-16) review
"This game has gotten a lot of bad press. Surprisingly though, that bad press is rarely quite as bad as it should be. I enjoy a good 2-D shooter, probably even more than the next guy. But there is almost nothing good about Deep Blue. I will start by telling you what is good about the game, which won’t take long. The game's bosses are quite large, it’s a shooter about fish other than Darius, and occasionally the colours in the background are eye-catching—sometimes even pretty. Done. "
This game has gotten a lot of bad press. Surprisingly though, that bad press is rarely quite as bad as it should be. I enjoy a good 2-D shooter, probably even more than the next guy. But there is almost nothing good about Deep Blue. I will start by telling you what is good about the game, which won’t take long.
The game's bosses are quite large, it’s a shooter about fish other than Darius, and occasionally the colours in the background are eye-catching—sometimes even pretty.
Yes, that’s it. Now we delve into the negative points in the game, which is everything else. The game looks washed out, like a poor man’s Darius Plus (for the same system). You would think that Pack-In Video would know going in that their side-scrolling shooter with the fish theme would be compared to Darius, and that they’d put some effort into standing on par at least, with that series of games. For whatever reason, they didn’t.
Your spacecraft, the A.N.G.E.L., looks as fragile as it is, and the enemies sometimes look silly and out of place. There is little animation to speak of; as all of the onscreen characters simply get dragged around the screen while remaining essentially static.
The music to start each ‘scene’ is strangely depressing and downbeat for a shooter. Halfway through each level, when the pace of the level increases, the music becomes upbeat in such a way that you hope for the return of the original depressing tunes. The wild, raucous cacophony comes on like a car alarm to mark the arrival of the real bad guys coming out of the woodwork. A true requiem for the dead.
Strangely enough, I took on this game as a sort of dare from a colleague. I was aware going in of the extreme difficulty (and the fact that there is no ending, just a prompt ''Next'', and back to square one on a harder difficulty level). But now I am also aware of the reason for the difficulty. The game is very poorly designed. In fact, it feels wrong to use the word 'design' in this review.
The enemies come at you in waves, and they come quickly. Though their flight patterns are quite predictable, their movement appears erratic. This wouldn’t be so bad if your ship wasn’t so slow. As it is, without the elusive speed power up, most often the best tactic is to judge the pattern of each wave as it arrives and seek refuge accordingly.
You are given only one life in Deep Blue, and while your ship can take multiple hits—the eye goes from a ‘healthy’ blue to a ‘brink of death’ red reaching green and yellow in between—but because of your ineffective weaponry, slow moving ship, and fast moving enemies, you will be hit often if you try to play this game like a normal shooter. Instead, the aforementioned ‘hiding in the safe spots’ method of play is your best bet. Another useful function to result from your ‘turtling’ is the fact that your ship heals itself—albeit slowly—when you’re not shooting. So by hiding in these safe spots you can recharge yourself and avoid death as you pray for the boss’ arrival to be speedy.
The power up system is almost unmentionable, as a single hit from any enemy will negate the use of any item that you may pick up. As a result, more often than not, you will not be powered up at all. The speed up item and restore health item are the most useful for obvious reasons. The weapon items predictably increase the rate of fire and the spread and range of your weapon of choice (they’re all duds: one looks like purple chalk and another like corn pops). Fortunately, you won’t need any of these to clear the game if you, out of necessity, play the coward’s role. I dispatched all four bosses rather easily with the standard pea shooter.
Herein lies another problem. Four levels are hardly adequate for any type of game, and for a shooter it is particularly troubling. Many average shooters are deemed ‘throw away games’ for just that reason, and with this game falling far below average, the chances of this Turbochip catching some air are quite high.
There is another thing that is particularly singular about this game. There are really no enemy projectiles to dodge. That’s right, no bullets. Just fish and other badly drawn sea creatures hurling themselves at you relentlessly. Even the bosses fire small enemies at you that can be shot, rather than true bullets and lasers. I’m not sure if this is a first in a 2-D shooter game but if this is any indication of its effectiveness, I hope it won’t be repeated.
Overall, Deep Blue fails in so many ways that in certain moments I can’t even see it as a game. It forces you to adopt a rather boring and frankly stupid strategy to get through it, and once you do, all of 15 minutes may have passed. But clearing it is a toss up, as you may play the perfect game up to a certain point and get slaughtered in seconds because you can’t find a hiding spot fast enough to recharge.
The play on words that comes to mind here is both predictable and appropriate: the game designers on Deep Blue ‘packed it in’. And early.
Staff review by Marc Golding (October 27, 2003)
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