I’m not going to waste your time like The Deer God wasted mine. This is a poor game. Though it may look beautiful and have a decent soundtrack to boot, The Deer God is about as dull, lifeless and sterile as games get.
It starts off with a fairly strong premise, a duo of hunters spend the night struggling to find a deer to shoot, one of the men retires for the night while the other stays on watch for a little longer and, lo and behold, while the remaining hunter is in solitude, a deer finally appears. Just as the hunter lines up his shot he’s attacked by a pack of wolves. Instead of this being the hunter’s end, he’s instead approached by a spirit of the forest; The Deer God. This spirit forces the hunter to see life from a different perspective, morphing him out of his human form and into a newly born deer.
For this five minutes, The Deer God is a showcase of artistic vision come to life. The artwork is stunning with gorgeous lighting and beautifully detailed pixel art and seeing inhabitants of the forest run alongside you in both the foreground and background is really something special. The Deer God has style in spades but it lacks in just about every other department.
I spent the majority of my two-to-three hour adventure with my thumb locked to the right of the analog stick. This is one huge, seamless world that never interrupts you with load screens or story transitions but it also rarely interrupts you with the concept of fun. Be prepared to run across huge stretches of land doing absolutely nothing other than watching the world go by. There were even times where I thought I somehow looped in a circle as platforming challenges are reused constantly without changing a single aspect of their layouts.
I use the word “challenges” loosely as the only difficulty is trying to maintain your attention on the game (which is admittedly very hard to do). Your double jump is so forgiving and platforms so wide that it’s incredibly hard to mess up in The Deer God. If it weren’t for the occasional puzzle break, this game could very well be an auto-runner and still an easy one at that.
I also use the word “puzzle” loosely as once you experience one block-pushing puzzle, you’ve experienced them all. Perhaps the world of The Deer God is too large for its own good. You’re constantly moving through this evolving mountainside but nothing changes aside from the visuals. You’ll encounter new aggressive animals which are essentially the same as the last ones and new climates like snow areas which essentially have the same level design as the forest areas. It’s a game with 10 minutes of ideas stretched out for three hours and you feel this repetition almost immediately.
On the rare occasion that the game decides to mix things up, it rarely hits an interesting mark. Every now and then you’ll find a cavern housing a deadly animal. The majority of these boss creatures are poorly designed and come down to encouraging the AI to ram into a wall of spikes or just repeatedly tackling into them with poor hit detection. In fact, this unintelligent AI is prominent throughout the entirety of the game. You’ll have moments where you’re being pursued by jaguars that will just run off a cliff instead of jumping after you and even friendly animals will run through fires and end up killing themselves while following you. What’s worse is you’re punished for the deaths of friendly AI with a light and dark morality gauge which affects the game’s finale.
One mechanic I actually liked is one pulled from Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Tokyo Jungle where you gradually age as the days go by and once you’ve matured you can mate with another of your species and the offspring becomes your second life. I loved this in Tokyo Jungle and I love it here too in The Deer God. Only problem, The Deer God undermines this by also having a traditional life system which made me question why this is even here in the first place, it’s like they couldn’t make up their mind what to go for.
The Deer God had me saying “Oh Deer.” A game this artistically beautiful shouldn’t be so lifeless and outside of its opening moments I really can’t think of many redeemable segments of the game. It’s slow, repetitive and has no clear direction for where it wants to go or what it wants to be. Not only is it not worth your money, it’s certainly unworthy of your time.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Crescent Moon Games