If you’re into the tranquility and mystery of being under the sea – either in real life or the “underwater levels” that are a mainstay of platformers the world over – Biart Company‘s Depth Hunter is for you.
Depth Hunter puts the player in the role of a spearfisher, searching seas around the world from Africa to the Bahamas for elusive fish (and sunken treasure!). Since spearfishing is done without breathing apparatus, the player character can only hold their breath underwater for so long, indicated by an air meter to the left – stay under too long, or fail to make it to the surface after being warned about your critical air supply, and your character dies, requiring you to restart your current mission.
There are 25 different missions for the player to embark on in Campaign Mode, which range from catching a number of specific fish (with a handy picture so you know your Angelfish from your Almaco Jack) to catching as many fish as you can within a set time limit. There are also missions suitable for vegetarians, such as scouring the ocean bed for treasure to taking high-quality pictures of fish, coral reefs and caves. Unfortunately, each mission has to be completed in order – if you’re stuck looking for a Barracuda, you can’t choose to skip it and move on to photographing morays. Once Campaign Mode has been finished, the player can explore the environments in Free Mode, or check their Photo Album or read through the Library of fish found in the game – but there’s not much to keep you once you’ve finished all the missions.
The majority of the game is spent hunting down and spearing fish; to do so, the player uses the mouse to aim and launch a spear from their speargun towards the fish they want to catch: if they hit, they begin a minigame where they must reel the fish towards them. The fish, however, is constantly struggling to get away, represented in the game by a marker moving along a meter at the top of the screen – if it gets too far to the left or right, the fish breaks free and bolts as fast as its fins will propel it. The player has to make sure they’re close enough that they can reel the fish in without it breaking free (which is almost a given when you’re any more than 10 feet from it), but not getting too close and scaring the fish away.
The music in Depth Hunter is gentle, soothing ambience, which complements the leisurely feel to the game – the music can become repetitive, though, since it only changes when you complete a mission.
The undersea environments in the game are beautiful: when you’re swimming through the holes in a sunken ship and looking out at a Stingray gliding through shafts of sunlight streaming in from above the surface, you’d be forgiven for wanting to stay here all day. The fish themselves are faithful, realistic representations of their real-life counterparts – right down to the ominous-looking tiger sharks that drift across the deep blue abyss.
Depth Hunter is a gorgeous game, and goes some way to give spearfishing enthusiasts and newcomers alike a small taste of the lifestyle. However, it’s fairly basic; once you’ve finished Campaign Mode – which takes about four or five hours – there’s simply not much else to do in the game. Biart Company has since announced that they’re working on Depth Hunter 2, though, which will hopefully expand on the gameplay of Depth Hunter and make them bigger and better.