The Deer God (Switch) Review
Release Date: December 21, 2017
Developer/Publisher: Blowfish Studios/Level 77
Platform: Switch (previously available on iOS, PC, Wii U, Xbox One, PS4)
Besides new and exciting games, the Nintendo Switch seems to be a place for ports of Wii U games. Some of them are necessary: perhaps a game can get a fresh audience with a machine more popular than the one it was originally on, or a fresh coat of paint and a few upgrades will make it worthwhile for a gamer to double-dip and return to a favorite title.
The Deer God falls into an interesting spot in the rerelease category. Originally the title began as a Kickstarter in 2004, and has been released on several platforms including Steam and iOS. It was released on the PS4/Vita earlier in 2017 (with a review by our own Erik Kubik here), and hit the Wii U in 2016. It has varied in price from $5-$15, but Nintendo has it set on the lower end of the price range at $7.99 on both Wii U and Switch. It's a straight port, with no upgrades or frills, other than the benefits the Switch naturally gives with the console/portable hybrid play style. It's not an upgrade, and it's not a niche title that hasn't had attention elsewhere. The Deer God for Switch is identical to any other version you may have seen, which was free on Xbox Games with Gold back in 2015.
For those unfamiliar with the title, The Deer God is a 2D platformer in a 3D pixelated environment, which creates a beautiful if simplistic world. The levels have a procedural generation to them, mixing up key items and enemies to make each playthrough unique. The story revolves around a deer hunter who is killed by wolves while hunting, and is offered a chance by the Deer God to atone for his sins. He finds himself reincarnated as a deer, and turns out to be a "chosen one" that is supposed to do the Big Thing to save the day.
As you progress, you come across random individuals who need support. Finding the doohickey they need, bringing the people where they go, or what have you. The procedural generation of the world loops the area until you complete a task to advance the story. During this time, you'll come across good and bad NPCs. Attacking and killing them fill your good or bad karma, depending on who you go after. Your karma meter effects the special powers you unlock or the difficulties you may face during the game. Stay alive longer and your deer will grow up, and be able to take and dish out more damage.
Certain parts of the game inherently seem odd. For example, the attacking in general. Yes, bad animals and hunters attack you, but your average deer is not wildly aggressive to threatening opponents. Also, the pixelated 3D graphics look good, but they can muddle important game parts together. Little black spiders look like lumps on the ground. Little platforms with deadly spikes on each side might swing behind a foreground object at just the perfect angle to make it hard to land right. Without an instruction manual, I earned powers I didn't know how to use until an hour later, and even then it felt like they were useless due to the slow charge of attacks in a game designed around being a nimble and speedy deer. At times I wouldn't notice an enemy until they had already hit me.
Despite the above issues, the minimalistic graphics make for a beautiful visual experience. While light on story, it does a good job of grabbing your attention. The inexpensive price allows you to enjoy this short yet quality tale without too much pain on your wallet. If you've played The Deer God before, you won't get anything new in this package, so only diehard fans need apply. If this is your first take on the game, the cheaper price and console/portable hybrid mode is the way to go. The Deer God is a relaxing title that has a tale to tell worth the price of admission.
-Beautiful, sprite based graphics and serene music create a relaxing mood for a wonderful storyline
-Cheapest way to get the console experience (seriously, why aren't the other's prices dropped?)
-Easy to pick up and play
-Enemies and allies blend into the environment
-Procedural generation and simplistic combat creates some repetitive gameplay
-No-frills port: if you've seen The Deer God, you know all this package has to offer