Control one of nature's most dangerous and menacing creatures in Crescent Moon Games' The Deer God.
The Deer God starts with a quick cutscene where a hunter is attacked and killed by a wolf and reincarnated as a deer to atone for his sins of hunting them. Soon after taking control of your deer protagonist, you'll notice 3 status bars at the top of the screen: one for health, one for hunger, and one for stamina. You'll need to keep an eye on all 3 throughout the game, particularly the hunger gauge since there are long stretches where food is scarce.
Playing as a deer, you unsurprisingly don't have a whole lot of options to defend yourself. A simple dash attack is all you start with as well as a double-jump ability that you learn early to help you navigate the terrain and avoid enemies.
The Deer God's structure is absurdly simple, tasking you with simply heading right throughout the entire campaign. You'll come across several deer statues that contain simple block puzzles and if you can solve one, you'll be granted a new magical ability. Some of the early powers are pretty forgettable but eventually, you'll learn how to cast fire and ice attacks which finally helps even-up the playing field.
You'll also meet a variety of people who ask you to complete simple missions for them. These quests usually involve heading further to the right and searching for key items or delivering something to someone else. The landscape is procedurally generated so if you skip or don't notice a key item or person, it will pop up again in a few minutes. There's no need to turn around or backtrack.
The Deer God has a unique visual style, mixing together retro pixels with pseudo-3D blocky design and features some nice parallax scrolling. Several different biomes provide a bit of variety and sometimes new enemies are introduced. The sun rises and sets throughout, creating a sort of realistic glare that helps set the atmosphere but at the same time, it makes the graphics look a bit smeared.
Despite being only about 4 to 5 hours long for a first playthrough, The Deer God still feels padded (especially in the early going). There are long stretches of terrain where there's nothing to do but continue running forward. There aren't a whole lot of collectibles or secrets to discover and the combat is extremely bland, particularly early on. The Deer God also doesn't do much to explain what some items and abilities do which I could see being a turnoff for those already getting bored of the gameplay.
If you're able to make it past the grueling first couple of hours, The Deer God does open up a bit. The new combat abilities (like the fire and ice magic) as well as a stomp attack make fighting enemies feel like less of a chore. You'll also mature and grow into a faster-moving and higher-jumping adult buck once you get better at surviving.
The Deer God feels like a bit of a chore to play with simple missions and a lack of any interesting or varied level structure. Those who make it to the end may find themselves having a bit of fun in the final hour but I wouldn't fault any gamer who couldn't make it through the grudgingly dull and poorly-paced first couple of hours.
- + Interesting art style and atmosphere
- + Streamlined quests eliminate backtracking
- + Abilities gained later in the campaign make the combat more enjoyable
- - Plodding pace with little to do early on
- - Doesn't do much to explain certain aspects
- - Lack of interesting level design (just head right incessantly)