Hidden Deep PC Preview

Hidden Deep adds a horror twist to spelunking, but it is far from a smooth ride.

By Fragnarok, Posted 02 Feb 2022

Hidden Deep is an Early Access spelunking adventure game from Cogwheel Software and published by Daedalic Entertainment. It builds off classic cave exploration games like Spelunker and Spelunky but adds on unknown horrors reminiscent of the Aliens films. Players will guide a team of explorers hoping to secure an underwater base that went dark. But monstrous creatures will be lurking in every dark corner.   

Hidden Deep, PC, Preview, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed, Cogwheel Software, Daedalic Entertainment

Players will first take control of Murphy, the team’s scout. He is equipped with tools for exploring the dangers of the cavern. This includes a grappling gun that can attach to walls, create zip lines, or swing across distances. Scouts also have access to scanners for locating secret passages and even a remote-controlled device that can search ahead and zap enemies. Another professional type is the engineer, who lacks the spelunking expertise of the scout, but instead operates heavy machinery. These can either be used to blast through walls directly or solve a more complex puzzle.

The biggest challenge is that players aren’t fully switching characters or relying on NPC allies. Instead, one will need to toggle between each character with the press of shift + number (corresponding to their team position). When not in control, those characters will stand idle and have no way of defending themselves. This makes it optimal to send out the toughest party member to defeat all enemies and secure safe passage. However, issues can easily arise if certain people advance too far, especially if the scouts zip line to areas that are too high or far away to easily return back. Moreover, players will often find themselves essentially running through the same level multiple times to move the entire group to safety.

Hidden Deep, PC, Preview, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed, Cogwheel Software, Daedalic Entertainment

To help combat dangers, characters are armed with a basic pistol, which can dispatch any enemy given enough shots and speed. For additional firepower, there are also automatic rifles, plasma cutters, and explosives. The latter can destroy terrain, even the floor, so it is important to use it sparingly. All weapons require some type of ammo, and if totally spent may leave the character a sitting duck. In many cases, this might require a hard stage reset.

During early access, there is only a limited amount of enemies. The main force is a small flying demon-like enemy that will charge directly at the player. The second type is small worm-like crawlers that will scurry along the floor. A few stages will also introduce spiders, along with spider eggs that can spawn additional foes. Most deadly are the wall aliens, which will keep hidden quickly strike, causing instant death. Players will need to be very careful and purposefully bait them into revealing themselves early. Additionally, firing one’s gun will alter all other enemies to rush in and attack, making it important to always be ready for enemy reinforcements.

Hidden Deep, PC, Preview, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed, Cogwheel Software, Daedalic Entertainment

Hidden Deep’s co-op mode is a bit counterintuitive. It is not a default option on any menu, instead of the game simply detects if any controllers are connected to the PC and toggled on Steam. If so, the game will place a second player on startup. This is primarily used to take on randomly seeded challenge missions, though Cogwheel may also implement the entire campaign co-op in the future. For now, friendly fire is fully turned on, resulting in players needing to be very careful to not kill each other and cause a quick game over.

Almost all of Hidden Deep’s challenges come more from gotcha-level design and other surprises. The dark atmosphere and limited lighting mean players will almost never have a good grasp of their surroundings. Enemies are often wandering just out of view, giving them a major upper hand in any encounter. Additionally, poor item management can place players in no-win situations 10 or 20 minutes down the road and result in a full level restart. Some of this could be helped with shorter levels or actual saves, but for now, it can be brutal finding out a possible entire hour of play was wasted.

Hidden Deep, PC, Preview, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed, Cogwheel Software, Daedalic Entertainment

During Early Access, Hidden Deep has quite a bloated control scheme. There are both menus and hotkeys for every piece of equipment, some interactions that use the “E” key and others enter; and for weapons the right mouse button to draw but left mouse button to fire. By far the most confusing are the few swimming sections, where regardless of orientation “W” becomes forward, yet “A” and “D” aren’t a full universal left and right turn. This gets even more convoluted when using a controller, as the game automatically maps either Xbox controller or keyboard equivalent inputs to all of its in-game tutorials and user interface. The game wants to have fast-paced tense action, but players will often be fumbling to locate the difference between their gear, weapons, and sometimes basic movement.

Hidden Deep has some interesting initial features, but needs some design and quality of life changes to truly shine. More varied enemies, tighter controls, and challenges stemming from player skill would go a long way to improving the experience. Diehard fans of other spelunking and cavern games will still find excitement with Hidden Deep, while the rest may want to wait until it leaves the Early Access period.

Kurtis Seid, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Daedalic Entertainment GmbH
Developer(s): Cogwheel Software
Genres: 2D Platformer
Themes: Adventure, Exploration, Cavern, Underwater, Horror, Mystery.
Release Date: 2022-01-24

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