Ever since the Ouya shattered funding goals back in July, Kickstarter has been all the rage in the indie game development scene.
The fine folks over at the UK-based Ironsun Studios saw this as an opportunity to pitch their vision for Fathom, an “Undersea Neo-Gothic Steampunk Adventure.” I’ve had the opportunity to play through the first two levels of the game and I have to say, it’s a very enjoyable experience.
While the demo threw me straight into the first level, I did hear the voice of protagonist Nathanial Lockhart. According to the game’s Kickstarter page, Lockhart is a Victorian adventurer in the 1870s that returns to the site of a shipwreck where he lost his memory, but this time with a Steampunk Bathysphere to explore the murky depths.
Making use of the Unity3D engine, Fathom is a deep-sea 2.5 dimensional puzzle navigation adventure. To progress past closed valves requires making intelligent use of the resources available to you, whether they be a wayward rock or a detached wheel.
The controls are simple and very intuitive. Left click fires missiles, which you use to destroy attacking drones. Right click send out bubbles, which interact with key items, either pulling items closer to you or pushing them away. The WASD buttons, naturally, control movement.
The first two levels were quite easy, difficulty-wise, but I can certainly see the potential for challenging puzzles later in the game. It took me a while to figure out how to progress past the beginning of level two, using a loose rock to push me seemingly outside of the level, only to return on the other side of an electrified gate.
Visually, the game looks very nice and runs smoothly. Squids occasionally brush through the screen, but you can’t interact with them at all. The 2.5-dimensional perspective is confusing once in a while but never poses a serious problem. This is likely because the only times I was ever thrown off by the perspective was moving vertically up or down the screen, so it really never was much of a big deal.
Overall, I had a lot of fun playing Fathom. While the Steampunk design aesthetic is awesome and fun to look at, the gameplay felt somewhat retro to me in its simplicity. That’s hardly a bad thing, though, since most games nowadays try to do so much as an interactive audiovisual art form that I miss the simplicity of the puzzle games of yore. It’s refreshing to see a concept like Fathom come along and remind me of those good old days with my Sega Genesis, solving puzzles and having a blast doing it. Don’t get me wrong, Fathom certainly excels as a game designed in 2013, but at the same it retains the intuitive gameplay design from games made in the late 80s and early 90s.
With only a week left and nearly £112,000 left to go, it doesn’t look like Ironsun’s fun puzzle adventure is going to meet its funding goal. You can still head over to its Kickstarter page if you’d like to support the game and check out some of the cool concept art and gameplay videos.