After playing Playstation VR Worlds’ ‘Ocean Descent’, I’d been eagerly anticipating my next undersea adventure within the headset. With Neptune Flux, the deep sea adventure from solo developer Zoxide Games that’s now available on Playstation VR, I’d seemed to have found it. Whilst it offers a decent little endeavour to the depths of the ocean though, it’s over far too quickly and doesn’t offer enough for it to stand out as a virtual reality classic.
It’s probably worth noting that Neptune Flux is actually playable outside of virtual reality, so a Playstation VR headset isn’t compulsory if you want to play the game. In honesty though the most enjoyable aspects of the game come with the immersion offered by virtual reality, so if you don’t own the headset I’d probably recommend giving it a miss.
Neptune Flux puts you in the shoes of Sarah, a member of the group A.Q.U.A. that specialises in setting up colonies deep under the sea. With Earth itself becoming a wasteland, these colonies have become vital in prolonging humanity’s stay on the planet. However, there seems to be a lot of strange goings on taking place within the ocean – your mother, who also works for A.Q.U.A, has recently gone missing and there’s also the appearance of strange energy surges that are affecting A.Q.U.A.’s work. It’s up to you to find out what’s going on and discover the dark secrets that the ocean is hiding.
You’ve got full and free control of your submarine, so you’re able to explore the ocean however you please. There are specific areas of the ocean that are assigned power though, meaning you can explore them with no risk of your submarine’s power supply running out, but you’ve also got a limited battery supply for when you explore unknown territory too. It’s simply a case of making sure you don’t stray too far from the ‘safe areas’, though in honesty I never ran into any situations where I found myself too far away from a power source.
Your submarine comes with a few neat features too: you’ve got your sonar that will clearly mark any interesting objects that might be hidden away, your flares that will light up any of the ocean’s darkest corners, and your boost that’ll momentarily increase your speed. In honesty I only really used the sonar and boost, with the flares not really that necessary to progress through the game. Frustratingly, you only have a limited amount of boost, so you’ve got to deal with having a slow movement speed during most of your exploration. You can replenish your boost whilst your back at the main base, but that can be a pain to return to all the time when you’re out exploring the sea.
Most of your time in Neptune Flux will either be spent exploring the area or solving small puzzles. To the game’s credit, some of the discoveries you’ll make are quite impressive, even more so thanks to the fact you’re playing in virtual reality – coming across a sunken ship or plane and exploring its ruins was neat, especially since you could get so up close and personal to them. The puzzles were enjoyable to solve too, even if they were typically incredibly simple in design.
The main problem that Neptune Flux has is that it’s so short and uninventive. You should be able to finish it in around an hour, whilst everything you participate in during the game never feels all that exciting. The way in which the game initially builds up suggests there’s going to be a lot more to it, so I was quite surprised to see it all come to an abrupt end. I know virtual reality games aren’t known for being big releases, but even this seemed short by those standards.
The game also suffered from a lack of direction, with it never made perfectly clear where exactly you had to go. I felt like I was missing a trick at times, but with an open ocean to explore and no real form of way markers I was often left wandering and hoping for the best when trying to find my objective. Whilst in theory this sort of design should compliment the fact you’re exploring the sea, the dark and dingy nature of it could make it an awkward experience at times.
As you explore the ocean bed you’ll come across loot, which is basically made up of old crates and barrels. Collecting these crates will reward you with a large sum of cash that you’ll eventually spend on minor upgrades for your submarine. There isn’t a whole lot to the system though, with it essentially being a case of spotting boxes and simply pressing a button near them to collect your reward. There was no real substance to collecting loot, with no extravagant treasures to find; it just seemed to be box after box after box, which is disappointing seeing as you’re typically exploring interesting wreckages.
One thing I actually appreciated about the game though was that I could bash at the fish in my little submarine. I expected to simply float straight through them, but instead they’d get hit away as they smacked against my front window. Don’t get me wrong, the physics were unrealistic and the fish don’t react in a natural way, but I found it oddly satisfying to torment a small group of jellyfish.
For all of Neptune Flux’s shortcomings, it comes with the benefits of a low price point. Under eight dollars isn’t too big an ask for a game, especially since the time you spend playing it is enjoyable enough to justify the small fee. It’s never ground breaking, but for such a low price point you can’t complain too much.
Neptune Flux offers a decent little deep sea experience, but the short running time and some lacking mechanics ensures that it won’t invigorate you too much. Whilst I enjoyed exploring the sea in virtual reality and making some cool discoveries, the core gameplay itself was just a little underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never bad, but it’s never exceptional in any shape or form either.
Despite this, the fact that the game was made by a solo developer is quite impressive – whilst it doesn’t reach the scale I think it’d like to, it did do enough to keep me entertained, if only for an hour. Add to that the fact that it’s available for the low price point of $7.99 and it’s a little difficult to give it too hard a time.
It isn’t going to blow you away, but you the low price point justifies checking out Neptune Flux’s interesting little deep sea adventure.
Developer: Zoxide Games
Publisher: Zoxide Games
Release Date: 08/08/2017
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Playstation 4, PC, Mac