I can never tell what kind of quality I’m going to get from a horror game. It still feels like a saturated market to me and, with Submersed now entering the fray, Main Loop are inviting some interesting comparisons.
The plot begins with a tale of bad science. Some parasites have been found and experiments have led them to become infused with sharks. It’s quickly discovered they act like a hive mind and, as our hero is introduced, the predators are given centre-stage as the main villain. After responding to an emergency call, our protagonist lands on an offshore facility to find answers. The tone is well set, even if the voice acting is a touch off.
Jack Ballard is predictably shaken and immediately finds himself stranded. He’s easy to relate to and most of the cast handle their roles well. It’s a shame the plot adheres to standard horror tropes with scientists invariably reaching too far and otherworldly elements.
Presentation is low-budget but decent. The darkness does allow for some interesting displays of lighting. The voice-acting, despite the occasional odd line, works well enough and is well delivered. I think the plot itself is standard b-movie cheese. The musical accompaniment of the shark’s appearance feels a little daft. The metal soundtrack that signals his arrival feels out of place when the rest of the sound is played for ambience and atmosphere.
Every area is encased in darkness, your character’s heartbeat constantly makes its presence felt. Your inventory is limited and your foes, despite being small in number, pose a real and dangerous threat. On paper, it should provide a decent, nervous time. Unfortunately, the formula also offers the potential of screwing yourself over.
Healing items are scarce and, whilst you do have safety boxes to store loot, they aren’t readily available and have limited space. Hard choices have to be made and they do ratchet up the tension in areas where a threat isn’t on the horizon. With no means to drop items from your inventory, you can find yourself doubly stuck with a cluttered, full inventory. When an enemy does arrive, your forms of defence come from stealth or choosing a time to run. Defensive weaponry does come your way but, with limited uses, they feel like a last resort.
Stealth comes with some basic, effective feedback. Diving suits are equipped with sonar and a traffic light system which indicates when danger is close by. Other than that, you can hide behind objects and railings and wait for an opportunity to slip by unnoticed. There are sections when this works well. Areas are designed with it in mind and, whilst they are linear, it does well to bring tension to what is essentially a game of cat and mouse.
As the shark features more as a nemesis, the irritation really rises. Sneaking by him seems to have a tight window and, once he spots you, you’re chomped within seconds. Your weaponry doesn’t disable enemies for long, if at all. The shark is nimble and fast and, without a means to hide, you’re left running for home and hoping you have the health to take the hits.
It’s a shame the moments where running is required boil down to luck. You’re not very resilient and, with healing at a premium, you can be forgiven for restarting runs just to come away more healthy. I find myself frustrated by it, even though Submersed is a relatively short experience. Starting again isn’t that much of a punishment but finding yourself backed into a corner is never nice. It’s made worse by only having a single save to work with. You can’t restart individual chapters so a rough checkpoint will remain an obstacle and beginning again becomes the only option if you want to be in better shape.
Puzzles fare better. They’re simple to follow and solutions are usually nearby. The small environments do help direct you to your objectives. It helps that usable items stick out, even in pitch black. Doors you can’t open are clearly marked and, in some cases, an alternative solution can be nearby. These quieter times do give you time to breathe, manage your items and relax.
As a package, Submersed is cheap and not very cheerful. Whilst the puzzles are basic and easy to grasp, the disastrous inventory to the combat whittles away any enjoyment. Attempts to provide something atmospheric are made but the irritation of failure and the penalty of hoarding supplies leads to something I’d find hard to recommend.
+ Puzzles are simple to deal with.
+ Relatively short with decent pacing.
- Combat seems inconsistent and frustrating.
- A single save has the potential to ruin your chances.
- Stealth and running sections can be irritating.