Hidden Deep is great quality for an early access game with an eerie atmosphere and 80’s Aliens vibe that had me on edge the whole time.
Hidden Deep is a 2D atmospheric sci-fi action thriller developed by solo dev Cogwheel Software and published by Daedalic Entertainment. The game is available on Steam Early Access and released January 25, 2022. Inspired by the likes of Aliens, The Thing, and the original Half-Life, this is a very cool game about surviving kilometres underwater, deep within the Locke Industries Suboceanic Mining and Research Facility. We lost contact with the structure 681 days ago. Starting alone, you will explore, climb, swim, scan, blast and shoot your way through dangerous missions, uncovering creatures of the deep that didn’t want to be found.
I love the atmosphere of Hidden Deep. It has that oldschool 80’s movie vibe with the text slowly typing out on screen for your next objective and eerie music and sound effects to add that fear of the unknown factor when exploring deeper. Controlling the character Murphy with the keyboard, coupled with the great physics effects, really makes you feel like playing an old survival platformer game. It’s dark outside your current confines so you can only see a circle of head torch light around your character, as well as any lights and machinery that are powered in your current area. You are given hints early on as you discover things for the first time, such as noticing a crank handle is missing, then further along you can press E to pick it up and use it to withdraw or lower bridges and cages.
You can lower yourself down short ledges, but you quickly learn the character’s physical limits. I came across a large gap where I had to hold shift to sprint and jump across. However, I was too used to games where the character will grab the edge and pull themselves up – not in Hidden Deep. Too long a drop and you’ll break legs, killing the character in a bloody heap. You respawn close to where you died, with the blood smear left behind as a reminder of your failures. Depending on which of the three campaign difficulties you choose, you’ll be able to respawn a given numbers of times before you need to start that level over from scratch. Expedition difficulty lets you focus on the story with a little challenge. Deep Exploration is the normal and preferred mode with an even balance of exploration risk and regular number of aliens. The hardest difficulty is aptly named Intense Exploration where fewer deaths are allowed and there’ll be a lot more aliens to deal with. There’s also a challenge mode to change up scenarios ones you complete the eight levels available in this early access version. There will be ten levels available once the game leaves early access later this year.
With your head torch lighting the way and the music setting the tone, it was a scary and eerie feeling as I explored more of the darkness ahead. Traversing the corridors with the sounds of my footsteps differing between metal and stone floors, we eventually came to a very long drop, and this is where we are introduced to the grappling hook. This tool is implemented so well in Hidden Deep, and physics play a big part in the overall game but lowering yourself into the darkness via the grappling hook was very cool. Climbing back up, you must swing yourself back to the ledge. I found out the hard way that you can swing too hard and smash yourself into the wall or jump too early and you’ll again be falling into a bloody heap on the floor. Thankfully you can shoot your pistol while on the grappling hook, as sounds can attract the alien beings.
I thought the difficulty curve was well implemented as each new cavern threw new and varied challenges at you, and you learned new skills at appropriate times. You have a Terra-scanner which can detect if there is a cavity within the bottom of a cave. If there is, you can use explosives to detonate a hole and explore deeper. You’ll find a pistol and later an assault rifle to shoot alien creatures. Starting with flying wasp-like aliens that can take 1-3 pistol bullets to kill, sometimes they drop a worm that does a fair amount of damage if it gets too close. Aiming with the mouse seemed easy enough by my accuracy was awful, especially if I was panicking and trying to run away at the same time.
Ammo is scarce too in Hidden Deep, so you’ll need to explore and find ammo caches in cupboards and lockers. My first encounter with alien worms was horrid as it came down from the ceiling, swallowing me whole and withdrawing into its space. Three to four pistol shots will take them down. Later there are larger creatures to take out and eventually you will find health packs too which come in handy at that time. Once you come across another worker, you’ll be able to control both characters and up to four in later levels. The other characters are engineers and only have a pistol for defense. They also can’t climb down walls as well as you can, nor do they have a grappling hook, so you need to set up ropes for them to climb down.
Controlling multiple characters was cumbersome at first. You move your first character, clear the way, switch to the second character and then move them to catch up to the first. Later though, you see why it’s this way as they will operate cranes and heavy machinery to aid your main character through obstacles and obstructions. It was cool to see how three and then four characters could all work together, completing their specific tasks in order for you to traverse the entirety of that level. Being kilometers underwater, naturally there were water caverns to explore, and swimming was difficult to learn how to control initially given the emphasis on physics. You basically need to aim your head in the direction you want to go, then propel forward. It took me some getting used to but eventually got the hang of it.
Overall, Hidden Deep is great quality for an early access game with an eerie atmosphere and 80’s Aliens vibe that had me on edge the whole time. The physics in the game are superb with a slight learning curve, but it makes using the grappling hook add to the overall feel of the game. There’s enough intrigue in the story to keep you wanting to find out what happens next and a steady difficulty curve that feels great to overcome, with relief at the end of each level. I’m looking forward to full release later this year.
This review utilised a key provided by Renaissance PR and Hidden Deep is out now on Steam Early Access.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis