The Deer God Review
The Nintendo Switch, in less than a year, stole the PS Vita's status as THE system for indie games. Each and every week, the Switch's eShop gets multiple indies, both new and old, for purchase. Better yet, developers have been reporting that their games sell in better numbers on Switch than they do anywhere else. These games vary wildly in quality, with some of them being masterpieces - Steamworld Heist, Teslagrad - while others are hot garbage - Vroom in the Night Sky, Troll and I - and with the sheer amount of them, it can be tough to figure out what is worth your money. In fact, that is probably why you are reading this; you want to know if The Deer God is worth your time. If you are considering a purchase, you'd be smart to read on.
The premise of The Deer God is both totally original and refreshingly thought-provoking. The opening cutscene depicts a deer hunter in the woods, a majestic animal in his crosshairs. He is attacked by wolves before firing the shot, and finds himself reincarnated as a baby fawn in order to atone for his sins and make peace with his history of killing for fun and sport. Sounds awesome, right? A plot that is original, something becoming less and less common these days? Sadly, that opening cutscene and story setup are the best part of the whole game, and it all slides downhill from there.
The Deer God's presentation is the first stumbling block. It has the "somewhere between 8- and 16-bit" aesthetic, meaning it has the increasingly more annoying/lazy pixel style. The game runs smoothly most of the time, but these graphics, which have become the hallmark of sub-par indies everywhere, are getting more and more tiresome every year, kind of like zombies, pumpkin spice lattes, and CrossFit. It's time to tie the low-rez pixel style to the tree in the backyard and bash it with a shovel. It kills me that the game's amazing setup could have had so much more of an emotion impact if it didn't look like the graphical precursor to Super Mario Bros. (NES).
The gameplay, if you really call it that, also has a lot in common with the original Mario Bros., though it's a whole lot less fun. The entire game of The Deer God is little more than running to the right and jumping. This is no endless runner, though; it's more like Sonic the Hedgehog without the speed, stunts or anything interesting. Enemies pose absolutely no threat at all; they can either be jumped over and avoided or fought, which consists of bashing heads with the enemy until it, or you, dies, like the old Ys games. Just running through procedurally created flatlands loses its appeal in minutes, though there are a few more wrinkles in there, as if the developers knew that the game would get played for 3-5 minutes and be forgotten.
These wrinkles take the form of some simple puzzles, side quests and boss fights. These all work exactly like you'd expect, push a block here, pick up an item there... you know the deal. The boss fights are a little more unique, with each employing a different little move or gimmick. Some of them can be a tad on the tougher side until you've got the patterns down. The bosses, however, are less than memorable, mirroring pretty much every other aspect of the entire game.
With all the indies in the Switch eShop, The Deer God is one that fails to impress on the level as others. As great as the premise is, the gameplay is repetitive and boring, with really no incentive to play for more than a few minutes. The art style is as tired as the random encounter or escort mission, and the game just fails to come together in any meaningful way. Other indies far outshine this one, and your money is probably best spent elsewhere.
Final Rating: 40% - The premise is the best part of the game.