Review: Reveal The Deep
One of my favorite Lovecraft stories is The Temple, a tale of a German U-boat set adrift in the North Atlantic which eventually comes to rest by a sunken temple. Much of the story focuses on the narrator’s time alone, listening to the ominous sounds of the deep ocean and beset by troubled murmurings. Reveal The Deep brings this story to mind because of how effectively it captures the same dreadful atmosphere of isolation. The solitude you face as you roam the halls of a sunken wreck does more to unsettle than scores of jumpscares and buckets of blood in other horror titles.
The game starts you off on the deck of a sunken ship, decked out in the finest iron diving helm the early 20th century had to offer. You don’t know why you’re there or what you’re looking for, but surely there are answers to be had in the bowels of the old vessel. As you descend through the decks you’ll find clues to the disaster that befell it, along with other startling and disturbing discoveries. Near the end you’ll have some choices to make, and some hard truths to face as your relationship to the wreck is made clear.
As far as mechanics go, this journey is about as simple as they come. You can move left and right (at a good clip, despite your clunky diving gear), jump, crouch, and interact with the few items of note you’ll find. This will be enough to get you around the ship, shuffling down halls and up ladders, shoving crates to form makeshift bridges, and creeping through tight passages. The game has one additional gimmick and it’s a good one, centered on switching your lamp on and off with a delightful GONK to your helmet. Turning your light off in certain areas will reveal a different aspect of the ship, usually to access more notes left behind but occasionally to solve puzzles.
I won’t lie, you’re going to be doing a fair bit of crate pushing here in between long walks down rather samey halls. The look of the game is amazing as I’m about to explain but variety of environments isn’t one of the reasons why, because there’s hardly any to be had. However, there’s more than just mystery urging you on to the conclusion. Reveal The Deep does incredible work with its sound and lighting design to make a fantastically immersive experience out of side-scrolling pixel horror. The light from your diving helmet casts long shadows down corridors and through gratings, revealing just enough of the deep to leave you questioning what lurks in the darkness. And the ambient sounds of the ship settling and sea life skittering about is more than enough to convince you you’re all alone on the floor of the ocean.
This is what sets apart Reveal The Deep from other indie horror attempts, the incredibly effective atmosphere built upon a very basic pixel art foundation. Not many games pull it off this well, even including games with more advanced graphics. There were scares I knew were coming on my second playthrough that still rattled me because of how convincing the game is. That ever-present foreboding stays strong all the way through to the third and final chapter where it breaks a little in light of the main story reveals, but is then replaced with a deliciously melancholy ending. It won’t take you longer than an hour and a half to arrive at the conclusion, which is probably ideal for what the game is.
It’s been years since my first experience with Reveal The Deep but it has stuck with me all this time, and is honestly just as good the second time. Few games nail the horror of isolation as well as this one, and it’s a double-whammy when paired with the terrors of the deep ocean. Don’t expect anything revolutionary on the gameplay side, but the constant tension and creepy reveals should more than make up for the crate pushing you’ll do to get there. This one is a perennial recommendation from me for a reason, and I can only hope more folks take the plunge to see what dark wonders lie in wait here.