Growing up, exploring the depths of the sea was all I ever wanted to do. The untold world that hides below in the deep. The creatures who lurk there and make their home. That dark and mysterious world which only begs to be discovered. BSK Games and BadLand Games came along to create Anoxemia and mixed together. Here's our review of Anoxemia.
The Anoxemia Story
You act as Dr. Bailey, a pink-mustached scientist who has been tasked with discovering some freaky plant life on the acid-covered ocean floor. The most dangerous mission ever thought of ... something goes wrong on your journey to fulfil what is easily hands down. You're crashing against the ocean floor with your state-of-the-art submarine, you lose all contact with the surface above, you're surrounded by mines and machines and you run out of oxygen. So what are you doing? You guys up, wipe your nose off the snot, and get out there and find the twice-damned plants!
The game is well named because Anoxemia is a real threat (and occurrence) for many divers as it occurs. Actually, anoxemia is a deficiency of arterial blood oxygen. The side effects of things like anxiety, increased heart rate, excessive sweating, quick breathing, and confusion are listed. All of this is beneficial to the game as it gives off this creepy, hallucinogenic, claustrophobic feeling. Anoxemia provides very small spaces for the players to squeeze through and it adds to the game's terror.
How it is told is one thing that is great about the story. Although some of the game is told in these beautifully drawn, comic book style panels, the rest is told by Dr. Bailey's singular banter. With some dialogue, even your little ATMA joins in. For example, for the first time you see a dead body, the ATMA tries to save the Doctor from the horror of it, but types "Move Along, Nothing to See Here" on the screen.
Let's move on to gameplay without giving too much away from the story because it's way more fun to experience it. Anoxemia is simple to learn, but hard to carry out. More than a few times, I've found myself doing puzzles. As players, like Dr. Bailey, explore the murky waters and drag him underwater in front of you with a little drone that does all the work and guides you through the level. The Drone really is what you're playing like, the ATMA. You have around you a small bubble of light, but beyond that, the darkness is complete and total. The sonar button on the drone can be pressed, which then indicates the direction you can go to collect the plants. It doesn't light up the area any better, however. It only gives you a misunderstanding of how far you need to go to your next target and highlight mines (so it's not entirely useless).
In order to progress through the stage, you have to avoid mines, energy-sucking robots, and toxic plant life along the way. All of which are pointed out by your ATMA. Before moving through to the next area, the objective is to collect all the plants, furthering the story. You find new underwater environments as you move on and get some new skills, such as a harpoon for shooting and dragging objects, dynamite to collect to cause rock falls and create new paths, and even the ability to power down the robot laser subs for a short while chasing you.
It is very important that you find oxygen canisters as you travel through the sea to keep the supply of O2 up, or you will suffocate very quickly. There will be a small timer counting down each time you click the sonar, which is a slow decrease in your O2 level. Dr. Bailey even wonders, "Why are the oxygen canisters at the bottom of the ocean?" "He says it so often that you will hear it in your sleep, along with," I must not do anything to jeopardize the mission. It is one of the game's flaws. The action button sometimes doesn't work as well as it should, and there were times when I just couldn't advance (I 'm looking at you giant rock that a harpoon needs to move, I can usually just push instead). I found that I had to either restart the level or die just to see what I was doing wrong. Puzzles can always be solved, but it can take a while or two. As you become easily stuck in rooms or on snags, the interior levels that are in place are a nightmare to navigate around. It helps with the claustrophobic climate, but it can be kind of disruptive. The game, however, is strangely addictive and uses a brilliantly formed notion that will hook you every time you die into giving it one more go. Oh, and you're going to die a lot.
About Unda 'Da Sea!
All of the mechanics work very well and a creepy atmosphere is really set up by the game. Anoxemia calls itself a game of horror, but only if you're really afraid of being buried at the bottom of the sea, oxygen-free, suffocating and dying with no chance of help. Well, it's pretty horrifying then, yeah. The movement, much as it should be while moving underwater, is good but tricky. There's a lot of gaming for your dollar, too. It's definitely a roller coaster, with 38 levels that will tip your fear to its peaks. And it's great to see that it will take you under five minutes to complete some of the early levels, while the latter will tax your mind and test your ability not to throw half of the controller across the room.
Overall, you'll find that, for a very small price, Anoxemia will give you a lot of games. It'll take you a decent amount of time to get through all the levels, but the challenge is more than worth the investment. The sound, and the story it tells, and the feeling that you might be drowning for real, is done in a great way. Sure, not every game can be flawless and at times the controls can become clunky and some of the level design is sometimes annoying. If you can get over that, however, then you'll want to take a deep breath, hold your nose, put on your bell helmet, and dive to discover Anoxemia's secrets.
- Entertaining, creepy atmosphere
- Well told tale and great sounds/music
What's not so good:
- Clunky is controlling
- Navigation can be frustrating