I have to admit, I’m quite terrible for judging books by their covers, or perhaps I should say: apps by their App Store descriptions. Something about Deep Under the Sky’s promise of “80 levels in four gorgeous worlds” had me thinking: ‘Here we go again.’
Note to self: stop with the judging. Despite my reservations, Deep Under the Sky has sexily slinked its way onto my Best Mobile Games of 2014 shortlist. It’s that good.
On the surface, Deep Under the Sky doesn’t sound particularly remarkable. It’s a physics-based puzzle game, with stars to collect and - again - four sets of 20 levels. If I had £1 for every time I’ve relayed that description.
The aim in each level, essentially, is to hit a number of targets by launching jellyfish, of which you have an unlimited supply. Hit those targets, and it’s onto the next level. Simple.
Where Deep Under the Sky excels, firstly, is its mechanics. Different gameplay elements are slowly introduced in order to keep things interesting, and even at a significant 80 outings, the game doesn’t outstay its welcome. Not at all.
Each jellyfish naturally follows an arc when launched, but the twist comes when you tap the screen. See, the jellyfish come with a predetermined array of actions unique to each level, so they might dash then roll, then grapple, then explode, for example - each of those actions unleashed with a tap.
Learning the layout of each area, it’s up to you to use the given combination of actions to reach the targets scattered around, and – if you fancy – the stars.
Don’t worry if that description doesn’t make sense; it’s more a symptom of my terrible writing than Deep Under the Sky being overly complex. Yeah, there’s a lot going on, but it’s all very intuitive.
So, things to like about Deep Under the Sky (we could be here a while). It looks great, and the “trippy chillout soundtrack” is all yummy feedback and delicious delays. Suddenly I feel the urge to listen to Tortoise.
In fact, the whole game feels pretty chilled out. There’s no concept of lives, and as such you’re free to experiment to your heart’s content. Heck, you can even skip to the next level – or indeed any level – if you like.
I even love the way - targets destroyed - the main jellyfish thingy floats off the screen with repeated taps, especially when having mastered a particularly taxing level. It’s like doing a little victory lap as everything fades to beautiful black.
Gripes? Well, I’m clutching at straws here, but the Map screen looks frankly awful, especially considering how attractive the rest of the game is.
The last few levels are devilishly difficult, too, so you can expect to pull out some hair and maybe unleash a few expletives.
Having said that, Deep Under the Sky is never unfairly difficult, and I’ll certainly be going back to polish off those last few levels just as soon as I hit Publish. Right about... now.
- Looks and sounds great
- Varied gameplay with the rolling and the dashing and the grappling
- Totally chilled (skip levels, unlimited jellyfish, no “lives”)
- The Map screen
- Fiendishly difficult at the end
- *struggles to come up with third Con*
Summary: Deep Under the Sky is one of those games that’s so good, I almost worry that my insane rambling doesn’t do it justice. In case there was any doubt: it’s one of the best mobile games I’ve played this year.
Developer: Sarah Northway
iOS compatibility: Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad 2 Wi-Fi, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G, iPad Wi-Fi (3rd generation), iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (3rd generation), iPad Wi-Fi (4th generation), iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (4th generation), iPad mini Wi-Fi, iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad Air, iPad Air Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad mini with Retina display, iPad mini with Retina display Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPod touch (4th generation), and iPod touch (5th generation). This app is optimised for iPhone 5.