The Deer God is an interesting independent game created by Crescent Moon Games and ported to Wii U by Mobot Studios. It's part 2D platformer, part puzzler, and part adventure game about reincarnation. It uses a 3D pixel style that makes for a gorgeous looking game. So is it any good? Read on to find out.
Full disclosure: I (the reviewer) backed the game on Kickstarter for $10 and had alpha access on PC. I reviewed the Wii U version.
The overarching plot is pretty easy to follow. Two hunters are on a hunting trip. When one decides to turn in, the other (you) decides to stay up and watch the campfire for a while. While stargazing, the hunter spies a large buck. He takes aim, unaware that there's a wolf waiting to pounce on him from behind. As the rain begins to fall and the hunter pulls the trigger, he's attacked from behind and lightning strikes the area.
Amazingly, the hunter lives on...as a reincarnated deer. His life is spared by a higher power, giving the hunter one last chance to right his wrongs against nature. As the trailer says, "Karma brought you here. Karma will set you free."
From there, The Deer God leaves you to your own devices. You start out as a fawn and need to survive. You have three bars on the top of the screen you need to worry about: health (red - recovers over time), hunger (green - recovered by eating food found in the wilderness), and stamina (blue - consumed when attacking, but recovers over time). As time goes on, your fawn will grow into a strong buck. If you die, you will revert back to a fawn...if you have lives left.
Wait, lives? Sort of...there's two ways to keep going in The Deer God. First is by collecting extra lives, or steer skulls. If you die, you consume a skull and retain your current state. So if you're a buck when you die, you remain a buck. The second way is to mate with a doe as an adult. Your offspring becomes an extra life of sorts. If you die as a buck, you return as a fawn, but your quest continues. In hardcore mode, if you run out of lives and offspring, it's game over (permanently).
The main premise is to collect six relics of nature. You earn these by doing various quests, which can range from bringing a pastor more members of his congregation to submerging a submarine from underwater. While you're trying to do this, you'll learn various moves, such as the double jump and razor hoof. There are also ten power-ups you can obtain, though I was only able to get seven because of the procedurally generated landscapes. While the game will always start out the same and have the same basic quests, the environments are procedurally generated, so landscapes and locations will vary from playthrough to playthrough.
The young fawn has a long way to go, but a power-up should help. Image courtesy of Nintendo.
There's also the matter of your karma meter. If you kill predators of deer, you earn good karma (blue). If you harm a friendly animal, you earn bad karma (red). You kill wildlife, hunters, and inuits by either dashing into them or stomping them. There are also bosses, some of which are optional. The karma meter comes into play at the end of the game, but I'll let potential players discover how for themselves.
The Deer God looks and sounds great. The art style is a combination of 2D sprites (characters and some background elements) and 3D pixels (environments). The two styles come together wonderfully and make for a very aesthetically pleasing game. The framerate generally stays consistent, but it does take small dips on occasion. The music is also fitting. There's multiple composures that you'll hear while traversing throughout the game, and all of them are very pleasing to the ear. The sound effects were also appropriate, and they never stuck out in a negative way. The controls were also tight and I always felt in control complete of the deer.
So what did I not like about The Deer God? Well, some of the quests felt like fetch quests...which wasn't necessarily a good or bad thing, but they just wore thin towards the end of the game for me. The game's ending also felt...sudden and brief. I would have liked to see something more fleshed out, but it did somewhat conclude the story. Finally, my one minor gripe had to do with the controls. I would have preferred to use the d-pad, but that was not an option. The analog stick worked fine though.
The game was short (about five hours for my playthrough), but I felt like its length was appropriate.
It's also worth noting that I encountered some clipping issues, and the game did freeze up on me four different times. I made the creator aware of this, and he is sending my feedback on to Mobot Studios to correct in a future patch.
All in all, I liked The Deer God. It wasn't ground-breaking by any means, but it was a fun romp that can remind gamers how beautiful nature can be. Give it a try if you want something a little different from the norm.
The Deer God launches on April 28, 2016 in the Wii U eShop for $7.99.
Thanks so much for the concise and honest review, ludist210. I have been looking forward to this game, despite knowing little of it, and your review contained information that helped me make my decision as to whether or not this is a game for me. Most appreciated!