Who remembers James Cameron's special effects extravaganza The Abyss? Well for those who do not, get it out on video, and for your information it was set in a research station that was on the bed of the Pacific. Surprisingly, this is much the same setting that Deep Core uses, along with a liberal helping of a style that is reminiscent of the Bitmap Brothers' Gods. But Gods is not the only game which springs to mind when playing Deep Core - the introduction is stylish and smacks of Psygnosis on a good day.
In ICE's latest platformer the plot is the usual fare - aliens have invaded and it is up to you, Captain Dawnrazor, to clear them out. Deep Core requires all the usual jumping around from you, collecting the occasional power-up and shooting anything that moves. The game is divided into three different sections, and these are then subdivided into three, so there are nine large levels to explore. Each section has a different graphical style and as you get further into the game new elements are introduced. These include lifts to aid you in your exploration of the platforms and bigger, nastier, altogether tougher aliens. Finding your way round each level is easy, it is just a case of finding the right keys to open the locked doors which block your route. So if you do not have the correct key for a particular door then you have to traipse around until you find it. Occasionally doors can be shot at and blown up, but this is fairly rare.
Deep Core looks and sounds good; it is professionally drawn and has some sleek little touches - puddles of water at the bottom of the screen reflect the action at 180 degrees, and ripples like... well water really. There are some neat mechanical samples for the machine-like aliens, and the water dripping is a constant background reminder of where you are.
Dotted around the levels are stacks of enemies of all shapes and sizes, and this is what helps maintain your interest in the game - wondering what the next alien will look like. What is disappointing about the aliens is their apparent lack of intelligence - they just walk (or fly) forwards and backwards along set paths. This makes killing them easy because you know what they are going to do next, unlike in Gods, for example, where the enemies are far less predictable.
Playing the game is fun. The control of Captain Dawnrazor is flexible - he runs and jumps as you would expect. Also useful is the ability to fire and change direction in mid-air. Doors are used by pushing up and fire together when you are standing directly in front of them. But this causes the only complaint we have about the control system. When you are standing in front of a door it is not possible to duck or jump. So, quite often, as you come out of a doorway you are stuck in the line of fire. Not an ideal situation if your last sliver of energy disappears in a hail of unavoidable fire! As per normal three lives are provided, so there is always the chance it was not your last life (although, if Sod's Law has anything to do with it, it usually is).
The difficulty level of Deep Core is pitched quite high and you will not finish this game in a week. But passwords are provided at the end of each section which save you from having to trudge through all the early levels again. However, although this game takes some time to complete, it does not have an addictive enough edge to keep you coming back for more, which sadly is Deep Core's only real downfall.