by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Miku and her brother Taku are lost. Their little boat has been drifting after a huge storm and have come upon the remnants of a city, one that has succumbed to a catastrophic disaster that submerged the entire city, before eventually subsiding enough to leave just the peaks of the taller buildings. Taku is unwell though, and once they find a safe spot to disembark their boat, Miku sets about looking for provisions to help heal her sick brother.
Submerged is a third-person adventure title, not unlike Tomb Raider. In Submerged, Miku must explore this new found environment to search for the supplies she so desperately needs. As she does, she finds pictorial notes explaining the plight of the city. Apart from sailing her little Polynesian canoe, Miku will do lots of climbing, as she ascends those buildings that still remain above the water line in search for medicine, water and food.
Although Miku is a sibling to Taku, she acts more like a mother as she places the health of her brother at the expense of her own welfare. As the game progresses and Miku explores more of the submerged city, she gradually starts to show signs of being infected with some sort of algae disease, which begins to slowly increase as time goes by. Also, as Miku explores the watery landscape, it soon becomes apparent that Miku and Taku are not alone. The creatures that appear, seem to be some sort of humanoid sea monsters and begin keeping a close eye on Miku in her travels. They bring about an unease as to what will happen to the siblings.
The visuals are lovely, especially when viewed from a distance, and the landmarks are particularly impressive. Versions of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge (renamed as Silver Pass), a Statue of Liberty type landmark, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and even possibly the Melbourne Cricket Ground (although it is difficult to tell as only the light towers are visible) make exploring the submerged city all that more enjoyable. The remainder of the city landmarks - primarily skyscrapers and larger hotels - have been taken over by nature, with vines and creeping plants covering much of the outsides of the buildings. Often, I had the feeling that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon may have been an inspiration. The water too, is often covered with an algae substance but looks lovely when the sun shimmers off the waves. The day/night cycles also give the setting multiple looks, as everything becomes darker and more brooding as the moon comes out. At close range though, the visuals are somewhat let down by low-res quality.
The visuals are nice, but it's the musical score that sets the tone of the game. There is no conversation at all in the game apart from a few points where Miku seems to be talking to herself. But the music does a wonderful job of explaining Miku's plight, giving the game a forlorn feeling while Miku is searching for important items and then lifting the spirits when she finds them. The tone changes brilliantly as the game goes on, and gives a human touch to the non-verbal storyline.
I mentioned previously that Miku scales buildings and explores the landscape akin to Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Miku spends half her time scaling the sides of the structures and the other half in her boat. Scaling walls is just a matter of finding ledges or flowery vines and then moving in the required direction. Sailing Miku's boat is simple too - just point Miku in the right direction and then move. She can collect upgrades to her boat that enable a speed boost as well. There really isn't too much to the game other than exploration. The fact that Miku cannot fall and that Submerged is a non-combat game makes it suitable to all ages.
As Miku explores her surroundings, she will come across a number of collectibles. Some of these collectibles, when combined, will tell a pictorial tale of how the city became to be submerged underwater. Also, as she finds the supplies she requires to heal her brother Taku, the story of how Miku and Taku came to be floating on their raft is revealed. Healing her brother forms the main storyline and can be completed rather quickly, but there are other collectibles that extend the length of the game. Finding all the special Landmarks, the complete set of Hotels and all the upgrades to Miku's boat can take some time, especially as some are reasonably well hidden and cannot be spied using Miku's telescope.
Submerged tells a couple of wonderfully told tales, each with their own message. Miku's journey is beautifully matched with the musical score, that gives Miku more of a human touch as she completes each of her missions, despite the lack of any voiced dialogue. The main story mission is quite short though, and even completing the extra achievements only took six hours or so. The setting is lovely, with nature taking hold of the waterlogged city. The day night cycles add a living atmosphere to the setting, and the appearance of the sea monsters add some further drama to the story. And although I loved the telling of the stories and the landscape in which Miku finds herself, there isn't quite enough variation in gameplay to keep players interested for longer than necessary.
Wonderful story, beautiful musical score
Close up visuals are somewhat low res, rather short.