Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he's on vacation-- simulated vacation, of course-- spearfishing, diving for treasure, taking pictures, and occasionally freaking out about ghost pirates and aquatic bats.
Over the past couple months, I've had a number of jobs in these Sim-plicity columns: a rotten tow truck driver, an ineffective police chief, an inept bridge-builder, a confused bus driver, a frustrated lumber-cutter, and an airport firefighter so bad at fighting fires his airport was shut down. There's really only one conclusion to draw from this pattern of failure and incompetence: I deserve a vacation.
I'm taking my break with Depth Hunter: The Spearfishing Simulator , which plunks me into the ocean as a spearfisherwoman. At least I think I'm a woman. It's a first-person simulator, so I can't see myself, but the promotional art for the game shows a woman with purple hair wearing a bikini top. The simulation promises I will "face the difficulties of breath-holding spearfishing, an ancient fishing method", though I don't think the ancient purple-haired bikini-wearing spearfisherwomen had spring-loaded mechanical harpoons.
Side-note: I wasn't entirely sure that spearfisherwoman was an legit word, so I Googled it, and Google was naturally all, "Are you sure you didn't mean spearfisherMAN because that's the results I'm going to show you," and I'm like, "Yeah, I'm sure, but way to be sexist, Google," and Google was all, "If you're such a feminist then why are you even checking if it's a real word?" and I'm all, "Well I thought there might be a hyphen in there or something," and Google was all, "I notice you couldn't resist posting a picture of her boobs, are you just trying to get page views?" and I'm all, "Shut up, the picture is below the fold ," and Google was all, "Let's not fight, okay? We're on vacation," and I was, like, "Fine," and we didn't talk for a bit. Vacations just bring out the worst in some people and search engines.
I begin off the coast South Africa, with the game directing me to catch two fish. Catching fish requires shooting them with the speargun, then hauling them in with a "minigame" that consists of pulling the line in frantically while the fish is resting, and loosening the line (to avoid it snapping) if the fish is fighting. The trick is, a resting fish can be pulled in at a rate of about a meter per second, while a fighting fish can swim away at a rate of about six hundred thousand meters per second. I eventually learn to only shoot at fish that are within a few meters, then just haul them in before the line tension even has a chance to think about breaking.
Next, I'm tasked with catching a certain number of a certain type of fish, then to catch five fish without missing, then to catch as many fish as I can within a certain time limit. Soon I've got a bunch of fish stuffed wherever spearfisherpeople stuff the fish they spear. Some sort of fishbag, I'd expect.
Just as I'm getting a bit tired of brutally eliminating every single living thing on the reef, I'm told there is sunken treasure to be found nearby. I swim around, scouring the ocean floor, finding treasure roughly every few feet. It's as if a museum had been murdered and disposed of by the mafia. The items have exciting names, too: The Magic Mirror! The Sword of Truth! The Goblet of Doom! The Pistol of Fire! Wow, if this were an RPG my DPS would be totally maxed after this. Also, Kings of Leon is now stuck in my head.
Having hauled in about a dozen priceless artifacts, it's time to use my underwater camera to take pictures, because it's easier to bore people with descriptions of your vacation if you also make them look at every single picture you've taken. "Here's the hotel. Here's the rental car! This one didn't come out so well, but it's the rental car next to the hotel. Oh, here's the wing of the airplane. Sorry, these are all out of order!"
Taking pictures underwater should be fun, but the camera has a "quality meter" that is hard to satisfy. My snapshots of reefs and fish are rejected for not being high quality enough, meaning they're not taken from the precise angle and distance the game is expecting. Pleasantly, though, unlike most games with cameras (ahem Far Cry 3), Depth Hunter actually saves the pictures you take. Unpleasantly, it saves them as smallish bitmaps, though it gives you the option of using them as desktop wallpaper, because what looks better on your desktop than stretched out BMPs of simulated fish?
I move on to more fish-killing tasks, including hunting a barracuda and three yellowtail snapper, which are small, paranoid fish that swim away at high speed as if they can sense you're that fish serial killer they've been reading about on all the fish news blogs. I'm also given a single chance to catch a yellowfun tuna, which I fail at after it snaps my line. The game deducts some of my vacation points, but seems genuinely apologetic about it.
Then, I'm told to go swim around in some caves and take pictures of them. Swim in a cave? Here's my general thoughts on that: I don't want to swim in a cave. I don't anyone to swim in a cave. Walking in a cave, a cave filled with air, is dangerous enough. You could get stuck. You could get lost. A big rock could fall on you. There could be bats, or Batman. Have you ever seen a movie where people go into a cave and good things happen?
And a cave filled with water? Are you insane? All those same things could happen, only they'd be compounded by the fact that you're drowning. Plus, fish are basically underwater bats (scientists agree). I've swam around fish before in real life. They get all panicked and flap their fish wings in your face and it's gross. Sometimes they think you're going to feed them and their weird slimy gaping mouths open and close reflexively. Hey, I think I may have just discovered that I'm a little fish-phobic and cave-phobic and bat-phobic.
After my cave pictures are approved of by my demanding camera, I now have to hunt for treasure in the water caves. Oh, this will not end well. Picking up weird ancient masks and enchanted daggers that belonged to some evil pirate who is probably a ghost pirate now? Stealing his stuff, while underwater and surrounded by hungry swimming waterbats? This is a terrible idea. This is a terrible vacation. I should be drunk on a beach reading a terrible Jack Reacher book, not surrounded by fish monsters while awakening a skeletal pirate named Sunken Pete whose skull-face probably still has enough flesh on it to make recognizable facial expressions indicating his rage at me for stealing his treasure.
And, sure enough, while scouring the cave and stealing a pirate ghost's cursed treasures, I get low on oxygen. I swim toward an opening in the cave, where beautiful sunlight is streaming in, but somehow I can't swim through the gap to the surface. Either I'm too big to fit, or as we all know is far more likely, the skeletal claw of Sunken Pete has reached out and grabbed my ankle, preventing me from surfacing. I drown. My last vision is of the waters turning crimson as Sunken Pete drags me under and turns me into his willing skeletal minion. My life is over, and worse, my vacation is over. I won't even get to Facebook my 738 nearly identical pictures for 3 people to "Like."
Conclusion: The environments in Depth Hunter are quite pretty, there are giant manta rays, which are fun to look at, there are a lot of activities and a free mode for just swimming around on your own. Overall this was an enjoyable simulation, right up until I was horribly murdered by a cursed immortal pirate and forced to serve for all eternity in his underwater pirate army, never again to know warmth or rest or peace.