The past couple of years have been rough, and although 2022 seems to be headed in an upward trajectory, it still hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. Now, more than ever is a great time to find video games that are a bit more cozy, wholesome, and relaxing – the good ones freeing your mind of any stress or bad vibes as you unwind from a long day (or year).
That’s where Submerged: Hidden Depths comes in. The sequel to the original release in 2015, Submerged: Hidden Depths continues the story of Miku and her brother, Taku, as they explore the ruins of a vast sunken world, uncovering its secrets, and learning about Miku’s special powers.
I had the opportunity to check out the first hour of the game from indie developer Uppercut Games, which is slated to release on March 10, 2022, for PC via Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, and PS5. “Relaxploration” is the name of the game in Submerged: Hidden Depths, as you journey through a beautifully tragic world that seems like it will be well worth sailing.
The Mysterious Black Mass
You’re presented with a bit of the backstory as to how the world wound up becoming completely submerged, but the details are pretty sparse (undoubtedly left for you to uncover over the course of the game). The same is true for Miku’s special abilities, which came about from the growth of sentient root-like creatures, called the Mass. While the Mass turned everyone else into frozen copies of their former selves, it actually empowered Miku with some sort of mysterious connection to the growth.
Her ability allows her to seek out seeds that are being used to power random, everyday electronics like alarm clocks and radios. Once she grabs the seed, she delivers it to a pod that causes the black Mass to magically clear out from whatever area it’s inhabiting – whether that be the ruins from a library or a decrepit skyscraper hotel. Of course, finding these magical seeds is easier said than done.
Each area to be explored contains plenty of puzzles while using simple platforming mechanics as you make your way. The puzzles aren’t overly complicated, but provide enough challenge to think critically about where you need to go to proceed through each area, such as placing the seed in a basket and sending it on its way before searching for an elevator that will take you up 30 floors into the sky.
Platforming is incredibly simple, with a playstyle feeling like a more basic version of Tomb Raider. There is no player-controlled jumping, but Miku can do things like scale and climb across walls or swing from poles just by moving forward. She’s also unable to fall off any of the areas into the water below (at least from the time that I’ve spent in the game), so you really don’t have too much to worry about. That carefree vibe extends to the fact that there isn’t any combat in Submerged: Hidden Depths. Although there are certainly menacing-looking areas and creatures, there really aren’t any threats in the game, adding to its “relaxing” element.
Submerged: Hidden Depths’ greatest strength is its giant open world. I haven’t seen it all yet, but everything I have seen is pretty breathtaking. The waves meet with the sky showing just how small Miku and Taku truly are. The decaying ruins jutting out from the water are grandiose in design. The non-violent creatures had me taken aback (especially the giant blue whale). I couldn’t help but think of Immortals Fenyx Rising while playing – a game with another grandiose and wide-open world.
The only thing that made the first hour less relaxing was traveling by boat from Miku’s home base to the outlying areas. Moving forward is about as slow as molasses. I actually ended up driving the boat in reverse during my first few sailing trips because it was much faster. Thankfully, after my first mission, I was able to upgrade my boat with a boost feature, which I assume there are plenty more of further into the game.
There’s a lot to enjoy in the first hour of Submerged: Hidden Depths. Moments of critical thinking combine with its relaxing gameplay to create a fun experience from the very beginning. I’m looking forward to exploring more of the gorgeous, watery world in the full release and learning more about how exactly Miku is connected to the thing that brought civilization to its knees.
A PC code for Submerged: Hidden Depths was provided to GamingPizza for this preview. Submerged: Hidden Depths will set sail on March 10, 2022 for PC via Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, and PS5.