DeepSeaGirl [Story of Ari] is Tabomsoft’s second horror RPG and though it’s not a sequel to HideAndSeek, this new title does include the same popular theme of spooky things happening to lost little girls. During a trip to the aquarium on her thirteenth birthday, Ari becomes separated from her mother. The childhood trauma soon takes a sinister turn as Ari finds herself confronting cryptic puzzles and malevolent ghosts in an effort to find her mother and escape the aquarium alive.
This game excels at creating an ominous atmosphere and building suspense. Supernatural figures lurk about in the corner of your vision, paintings seem to change, and most interactive objects have an eerie sound effect to complement the soft music. The artwork, especially the close-up drawings, is also well done.
The gameplay works to build tension by letting you explore the space at your own speed, while scripted actions escalate the plot once you have accumulated the appropriate clues. Then, at certain points, a spooky ghost will force you to accomplish a specific task, sometimes within a time limit. If you fail, you die a jump-scare death. This aspect of the game is brilliantly accomplished. Just ask my dog, who I startled several times by screaming at my phone.
Unfortunately, some of the game aspects of this horror game leave much to be desired. With the confusing nature of the puzzles, and the very specific way in which these tasks must be accomplished, I found myself dying several times before completing a section, meaning the deaths lost their ability to scare me. What’s more, after certain points in the plot, random items can kill you, even items that didn’t previously, making it pretty annoying to continue obsessively searching every object for new clues. On another note in order to interact with an object, you must press the action button. Unfortunately this also applies to the info-booth containing the tutorial… meaning I had to figure out how to interact with objects in order to open the instructions for interacting with objects. Hardly user-friendly.
And although subtlety is appreciated in a game that’s meant to frighten us, DeepSeaGirl is a little too stingy with practical hints. I often found myself stuck trying to figure out exactly what it was a particular ghost wanted me to do, even after I had more or less “solved” the puzzle. For example, I had gathered that I was supposed to place two objects on a table, but died several times getting over to the table, and because I had to figure out which particular spot on the table the ghost meant.
One possible explanation is that the English translations are a little rough. It’s not bad enough to distract from the fun of playing, or even from the overall eeriness of the game, but it’s possible that some of the subtlety in the language of the various notes scattered about the aquarium is being lost.
Speaking of which, everything in the game seems like it can be a clue. But most things aren’t. The images are visually interesting, but it’s extremely hard to tell which pixelated objects can be interacted with or picked up, and which can’t, especially since that can change as the game progresses. Once-useless objects become clues or inventory items as the plot progresses, even if they were impossible to interact with before. Be prepared to smash your face against every surface in every room multiple times. Probably not what most people would do if they were trapped in a haunted aquarium.
This game is fun to play, until it isn’t. The atmosphere and the premise are genuinely interesting, but I find myself getting stuck too often, for too long, to feel like I’m moving the plot along. Where’s the adrenaline rush in that?
Is it Hardcore?
It has its moments
DeepSeaGirl is interesting and plenty creepy. But the “puzzles” aren’t entirely satisfying to solve.