Mission: Deep Sea (iPhone & iPod Touch Review)
A lovely looking under water game with a short but enjoyable list of missions, improved greatly by a recent App Store Update. Worth a look if you like the underwater setting or the pleasant, chilled game play concept, Mission: Deep Sea is a quality looking app with just about enough substance and content.
The game concept of Mission: Deep Sea is a little weirder and out there than it need be; you play as/control a sea turtle in the year 2017, carrying out missions in several under water locations. Missions consist of swimming around a fairly large area finding, tagging or photographing objectives, such as finding and attaching buoys to radioactive waste, tagging a giant manta so it can be tracked, finding and photographing lost missiles in an ancient under water city, finding and rescuing a member of the crew and photographing parts of an ancient under water city. It's family friendly, inoffensive and there's no combat (apart from munching on the odd jelly fish), making it an almost relaxing title and certainly a change from a lot of others currently on sale.
You might encounter some frustrating elements while playing Mission: Deep Sea but you will constantly be impressed by the presentation and graphics. While playing a mission objects will approach and disappear through the haze of the ocean very nicely and movements of other elements/animals are all animated very well. Fixed objects like ocean beds, walls and pillars also look great and movement around the level is smooth. One of the highlights of the game for me was the during the Pursuit mission, seeing the giant manta swim in and out of view with great animation and presentation.
A recent App Store update has tried to remove one of the biggest frustrations with the game, the control system. Post update you will be given the option of Novice or Expert controls, the former allowing you to control the turtle with the accelerometer by tilting the device, the latter using the original method. With the Original/Expert controls swiping the right or left part of the screen moves that flipper and doing both at the same time moves the turtle forward. Swipe the right flipper to turn left and vice versa. Vertical movement is controlled by the angle at which you swipe the screen. While this is indeed an innovate control system, it can become boring, repetitive and tiring after a fairly short while. It also proved to be too crude and inaccurate a system for the fairly precise movements required for most missions, as well tiring out your thumbs a bit in the longer levels.
Updating the game with this new control system instantly improves it and makes it more accessible to a wider audience. Pre update the game could be clunky and awkward, which detracted from the game and it's surroundings but using the accelerometer provides a more relaxing and easier way to enjoy the game.
The other major change in the recent update was to the clock timer for each mission. Pre update the clock counted down and if you hadn't completed the mission in that time it was game over and you were starting again. This was annoying and, combined with the clunky controls, made for some missions that were hard to complete because they were fiddly and frustrating, rather than challenging. The clock now counts up from 0 and rather than failing the mission, the longer you take the lower your score. This is an excellent and welcome change and not only makes it more accessible but adds some extra game play possibilities as you try to beat your best time.
I don't personally think Mission: Deep Sea has been set at a the best price point (£1.79) and £1.19 feels more like it's natural positioning. Presentation-wise, it certainly looks like a £1.79 or even a £2.99+ app, but content wise Mission: Deep Sea lacks the substance and longevity for a more costly investment. This odd price point I think is probably a reflection of not being sure where to pitch this game in the market place. It looks great and has a good build quality and level of polish, but there's not quite enough substance to the game or longevity.
If you completed each of the 5 missions quickly you'd get 2 or 3 hours of play. As it happens you'll probably need or want to repeat each level a couple of times so you might at a stretch get 5 or 6 hours instead, which for the £1.79 price point isn't the best value for money that you'll find. There is some new replay value to the game now there are two control options and I can see some players completing it with the Novice controls to then try on the Expert as well, which will add some extra value. There is, however, only so long that anyone will be able to replay the same 5 missions over and over again. The game sets itself up for a sequel and hopefully we won't be in a position to accuse the developers of stretching to 2 games what they should have put in 1.
Mission: Deep Sea is quite unique in terms of setting, presentation and concept and is a refreshing change to the majority of other iPhone/iPod Touch titles. Certainly worth a look if you don't mind the slightly higher price point, but don't expect a very high replay value or to spend hours and hours with this title.