The Deer God
To his great surprise and dismay, your character in The Deer God discovers that god is a deer and understandable she doesn’t take too kindly to the hunting of her kin. Seeing as your character finds himself at the pearly gates because of an unfortunate mauling by wolves while hunting and killing deer, things are not looking too good for him. Fortunately, the deer god is benevolent and grants the hunter a chance at redemption. He is returned to life, but this time in deer form where he must prove that he has learned from his past sins.
The storyline is pretty unique and a little deeper than what you typically find in platformers. Instead of a powerful stag, your life as a member of the Cervidae family begins as a tiny fawn. A nearby elder deer teach you the ability to double-jump and from here your quest for redemption begins. As you explore the pixel art landscape your deer will grow in size and power, provided you can keep it alive long enough. In addition to spike pits and starvation you’ll also have to contend with all manner of wild creatures such as monkeys, wolves, porcupines, pigs and more that want to take a bite out of you. These critters can either be evaded if you want to play it safe or head-butted to death. Starvation is staved off by eating fruits and shrubs, while platforming skills are required to avoid plunging down those spike pits.
The Deer God is predominately a platformer, but the randomized level layout also gives it the feel of an endless runner. You can continually run towards the right and you will never reach the “end” of the level or a final destination. Instead the landscapes will change from forests and mountains to deserts or snow. While exploring you will encounter puzzles to solve in order to unlock new powers as well as quests to perform. These quests are very straightforward and easy to complete, which is a pity. After receiving a quest the landscape will actually continue to loop until you have completed whatever was required from you, so there is never any reason to backtrack and it’s impossible to really get lost. The landscapes might change each time you play, but the quests remain the same and you get them in the same order. The game does feature a multi-player mode though, where you can team up with a friend and explore the gameworld without any quests getting in the way.
The best aspect of The Deer God is definitely the visuals which uses eye-catching 3D pixel art to draw you into the world. Although you can only move along two planes, the depth of field really make everything stand out. The game also features real time shadows, bloom and sun shafts to breath even more life into each scene. Thanks to the day and night system you’ll get to experience the incredible lighting system through beautiful sunrises and sunsets. In addition, The Deer God also features changing weather conditions, so you might experience rain, snow or gale force winds. The visuals are easily my favorite part of the game and about the only gripe I have is that some of the enemies blend in a little too well with the background and that foreground objects can sometimes obscure your view of platforms.
The audio is also very good with some great background tunes that really fit the mysterious atmosphere of the game. Most of the music tracks also feature some very nice bass lines that sound really good on decent speakers or headphones. The sound effects are equally good and you’ll hear the sound of thunder, animal noises as well as the hypnotic sounds of your deer’s hooves striking the ground as it gallops. Despite the survival aspect of the game, the combination of beautiful visuals and great audio actually gives it a relaxing atmosphere. The game is perfectly playable with a keyboard, but as with most platformers works best with a controller. The controls are tight and I never had any problem making my way around. In addition to jumping and head-butting enemies you’ll also learn new skills such as shooting fire from your antlers and smashing through rocks with your hooves. Special attacks require stamina though, which is represented by a bar along with your health and hunger.
While exploring the environments and smashing tree stumps, bushes and barrels you’ll discover items that are added to your inventory. These grant you temporary benefits such as defying gravity, increasing your luck or even summoning bees, falcons and other creatures to fight for you. The items are useful at times, but once your deer reaches adult form it is so powerful that there is very little reason to resort to items for help. Respawn points in this game are created by your deer mating with a doe and producing a tiny fawn. The process is initiated by standing next to a doe, which is randomly encountered, and waiting for a heart meter to fill up. The tiny fawn appears instantly and will follow you around until you order it to sit and wait. If the fawn is still alive when your character dies you will return to life using its form. It’s an interesting idea, but you can also find deer skulls scattered about which serve as extra lives. I’ve completed the game twice and both times ended up with more deer skulls than I ever needed which makes the fawns a little redundant.
Provided you don’t do anything stupid, like falling into a spike pit which spells instant death, The Deer God is not a very difficult game. Most fights can be avoided and tricking hostile enemies into leaping to their doom is quite easy. If you are really feeling cruel you can attack non-hostile critters such as bunnies, but don’t be surprised if you are reincarnated as one of them thanks to bad karma. The bosses are the only creatures that provide a real challenge as they require a strategy to defeat. It is a pity that not all of them are quest related, so if you are looking to get the most out of the game be sure to seek out all the bosses.
The Deer God certainly has a very unique premise, but it doesn’t feel like it is always living up to its full potential. I enjoyed the time I spent with it, but unless new quests or more randomized elements are added to the game there isn’t much reason to return to it. It is still a good game though, and worth experiencing just for the fantastic visuals and unique atmosphere it has.
- OS: Windows XP
- Processor: 1.4 GHZ Dual Core
- Memory: 1 GB RAM
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000
- DirectX: Version 9.0
- Hard Drive: 141 MB available space
- OS: Windows 7 SP 1
- Processor: 2.2 GHZ Dual Core
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia Gforce
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 141 MB available space