I still have recurring nightmares of underwater levels from any number of 16-bit games from my childhood, so I wouldn’t have thought a game like Capcom’s Shinsekai: Into the Depths would appeal to me. However, this retro metroidvania-style game has me hooked with its addictive mix of exploration, survival, and puzzle-solving.
You’ll spend the bulk of the game exploring a sprawling underwater world in an atmospheric diving suit. As the last surviving human of a cataclysmic disaster that has left the surface uninhabitable, you’ll have to scrounge around the ocean for items, gear, and weapons that will let you venture even deeper into the depths.
The game starts off serene and calm as you start in the brightly-colored waters near the surface, but as you descend further and further it gets darker and creepier. Adding to the atmosphere is an excellent soundtrack, with all the music and sound effects recorded underwater for added authenticity. Be sure to play this game with your headphones on.
Unlike most of the underwater levels from your childhood, moving around the watery world of Shinsekai is remarkably easy and the controls feel responsive and forgiving. You can boost yourself around the map by using up a bit of your precious oxygen supply and you can also grab onto walls and ledges and climb up or down them.
As you descend further and further into the depths you’ll unlock an array of harpoon guns, mining tools, and eventually a submarine that will let you venture into areas that your suit isn’t equipped to handle.
You’ll also find larger and more fearsome sea creatures as you descend. Sure, the first couple of jellyfish you encounter near the surface won’t faze you too much, but the first time you see one of the massive worm-like creatures with pincers three times bigger than your character… well, let’s just say I’m pretty sure the water around my diver got a little warmer right around then.
Having said that, you won’t find too many enemies in Shinsekai and combat in the game is mostly an afterthought. Most of the game’s challenge really comes from figuring out its massive network of underwater caves, caverns, and tunnels. Expect to backtrack a lot looking for areas you might have missed. There are also more than a few head-scratching puzzles that will require some thinking outside the box to solve.
Verdict: An awesome blend of retro gaming, exploration, and puzzle-solving.