Monday, August 1, 2016

Our Song of the Deep Novel and Video Game Mega Review

It's not often I get to return to my writing roots. I used to write a lot about videogames for various sites but mostly for fun, so when the opportunity to take a look at a new children's chapter book AND its corresponding video game adaptation came along, I wanted both of us to look at both book and game and see how they stack up.

Brian Hastings is the creative director at Insomniac Games, a developer responsible for some of the most amazing games of the past 20 years such as Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet and Clank. Combining his love of storytelling and mythology with a lot of experience in building compelling videogame worlds, Brian created a book and game that would inspire his young daughter and also be a lot of fun to read (and play).

"Song of the Deep" tells the story of Merryn, a young girl who lives with her father. They scratch a living from the sea, dad takes his fishing boat out to look for the choicest catch and Merryn spends her days tinkering with the junk that her father catches in his fishing nets.

Her father often sings her lullabies about lost lands under the ocean and the strange creatures that dwell in the briny deep. Merryn loves his stories and loves to be lulled to sleep by a fantastic tale.

But one fateful day, her father doesn't return home. In a strange vision, Merryn senses that her father is in grave danger, and soon she formulates a plan to build a miniature submarine to rescue him, and so Merryn's great adventure begins.

The storybook is fantastic, setting the scene for Merryn's story by instantly feeling like a modern legend. Merryn is indeed a strong and inspirational character for girls (and boys), and naturally the book goes into intricate detail of Merryn's quest.

We played the game on Playstation 4, and love the atmospheric music and voiceovers that set the scene in a similar way to the book, before you're into the action in a 2D sideways scrolling cave-fighter-type game. Old skool gamers like me will love the nods to games like Gravitar and Oids while Charlotte loves the sumptuous undersea visuals and easy (but always fairly non-violent) puzzle-solving gameplay. There are ingenious puzzles and traps to be solved and circumnavigated and tons of excitement. It's a visual and aural feast. I don't know who did the voice over but I could listen to her voice all day (think Evanna (Luna Lovegood) Lynch).

All in all, it's a successful idea that lets Brian dig deep into his storytelling prowess in both novel and game form. I'm quite interested to see how this sort of thing could work for other games (there are already tons of unofficial Minecraft stories that feel deeper and more mythological than the game's actual way too short story mode).

"Song of the Deep" is out now on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. The novelisation will be released on 7th August 2016 by Sterling Publishing.