Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
The Deer God caught my attention almost immediately thanks to its fantastic-looking visuals and somewhat bizarre premise. So naturally I was excited to put it on my iPhone and check it out. Problem is, no matter how much I want to love this game, I really can’t.
The basic setup is that you’re a hunter who’s been reincarnated as a deer/prophesied forest savior due to some extremely coincidental timing. It sounds fancy but it’s mostly a bunch of platforming with a little bit of exploration, puzzle solving, and combat - which is totally fine with me, but it’s not exactly an epic quest.
As is usually the case you can drag a thumb on the left side of the screen to move left and right, as well as tap the right side of the screen to jump. You can also swipe the right side to charge forward (handy for damaging enemies and eventually getting a little extra distance with your jumps), and tapping the center of the screen will interact with people and objects. It’s quite simple to learn, really.
I honestly think The Dear God is gorgeous and I really like the weird but somewhat whimsical premise, but I just don’t enjoy playing it. At all. There’s very little explanation as to what you have to do at any given moment, and even when there is it’s usually of no help. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was easier to intuit what the game wants from you but it’s even worse at conveying that than it is with exposition. Couple that with the procedural generation and seemingly random respawning upon death (sometimes I respawn where I drop, other times I go all the way back to a checkpoint) and it starts to feel like work.
Even that I could eventually learn to forgive if it didn’t arbitrarily make the platforming and exploration much harder than it has to be. It’s not a matter of difficulty, either - the issue is that the camera zooms out too far to be able to see things like enemies and even some hazardous plant life on the iPhone’s screen, which of course leads to lots of damage that could’ve easily been avoided.
And yet, despite the camera being pulled back too far it still somehow manages to not show enough as you leap through the world. In my experience about half of the jumps I’ve made have been “leaps of faith” - in other words I couldn’t see where I was supposed to land until well after I had started my jump. Sometimes I’d land safely, other times I’d land in a group of enemies and have to scramble to escape, and more often than I’d like I fell to my death. Falling to your death isn’t consistent either, especially in the desert. Is it a bottomless pit or is it just a bunch of sand? You won’t find out until you try to walk on it.
I am beyond frustrated with The Deer God. It doesn’t explain anything beyond the basics very well and it doesn’t appear to grasp some very important (and fundamental) platformer concepts. But the most frustrating thing for me is the occasional glimpse of what could have been.