The experience of The Deer God is certainly breathtaking and it’s interesting that pixel art is used to create and develop such an elegant world. But after a decidedly underwhelming and short-lived playthrough, much of the game leaves something to be desired.
The Deer God Review
Firstly, The Deer God is – if nothing else – amazing to look at and listen to; the developers at Crescent Moon Games really went all out to create a lasting impression of an environment. The music and ambient sounds match the art with a pixelated tone to them and it really helps to subtly bring the world to life. The art is fantastic, even from screenshots of the game you can see the effort that was put into making the game have a 2D side scrolling feel with a block 3D appearance. The forest you venture through is an endless left to right run where you can explore areas like snowy mountains, fields, swamps or ruins; with the day to night feature and the changing weather will always make you feel like there is interesting territory to explore. The in-game story is also intriguing, although a little predictable. You play as a hunter turned into a baby deer making your way through the world trying to realign the karmic balance. The Deer God certainly has its environment on point, but sadly there are more than a few pit falls to this beautiful game.
Firstly and most pressingly, I found a game-breaking bug that actually froze my Wii U. I had to get up and reboot the system in order to get it going again. It happened when I was helping out the Ghost Dad in the abandoned river boat and I went through that freeze glitch at least three times. It doesn’t seem like this is the only flack the game has received on this front either even players on Steam have cited that the game hiccups every so often, or causes you to fall into the abyss. Every time you hit a checkpoint – which were few and far between it felt – the game lost a portion of frame data and your deer jumped around through time and space.
Second is the gameplay, which just isn’t that engaging. The difficulty was suitable to play, but with the entire game clocking-in at just over two hours? There wasn’t that much to see and do. The “quests” are sort of dull and it’s not always clear what or how they’re meant to be completed, they also come with very little pay off because the length and commitment to each “quest” is short and unmemorable. There are a few redeeming puzzle solving moments that allow for some pretty sweet power ups: shoot fire from your horns, move blocks with light or create vines to use as platforms, The Deer God does have wide variety of neato super powers to utilize. However, a lot of these power ups and puzzles aren’t in plain sight and you can easily miss or skip one entirely without ever knowing, which is sort of a let down.
The three gauges on the top left side of the screen took a while to figure out as well. The red is your health, the blue is stamina, and green is your hunger. If you run out of hunger gauge your health will begin to deplete pretty rapidly and your stamina will have a harder time regenerating. This would be an interesting mechanic if food were a little more abundant; there is a certain intensity about trying to find food before you starve, but if I’m fighting a boss? The last thing I want to worry about his how hungry I am, it’s a layer of complexity the game doesn’t really need.
And lastly, on a note of complexity this game tries to pack in so much content, perhaps too much. There are a ton of items that have a lot of different effects on your lil’ deer bud, but none of them are necessary, some are barely useful. An in-game item should make you feel as though you’re given some kind of upper hand, like you have a trump card up your sleeve. Not something that just sits in your inventory never really needing to be taken out. The game feels like there is five hours worth of learning to be done just to understand how to really play, but only two hours of gameplay to do it in.
Ultimately, The Deer God is wonderful to look at but it fails to leave a lasting impression, it’s certainly an experience but perhaps not the memorable one that players are hoping for.