DSiWare has seen quite a few ‘GO’ titles during its lifespan, and the latest in the series is GO Series: Captain Sub. This title marks another departure in the series with a combination of puzzling, shooting and exploration. The question is whether this game is worth the expedition undersea.
The premise of the game is that you control a mini submarine tasked with retrieving treasure from a variety of locations. You have multiple goals: find all of the gold scattered throughout each level, locate keys to reach important areas, reach a secret entrance and then face off with a boss for the rest of the treasure. The puzzle element of the game comes with the challenge of manoeuvring your submarine around the maze of an environment while remembering to return to your ship on the surface to regain health and deposit treasure. All movement is controlled with the D-Pad and you can move faster with the B button; be aware that this boost does drain your health. Thorough exploration is required if you want to reach 100% completion on each stage.
Then we have combat, in which you can shoot torpedoes horizontally with the A button, or vertically with X. You have some mysterious enemies on the surface throwing barrels down into the sea, and once you destroy their ship yours takes its place. Unfortunately the same enemy ship re-appears wherever there is free space, so you gain little. Undersea your enemies are fish, lobsters and spiky sea urchins, but not only are you firing torpedoes at sea-life, some of them take two hits before they are stunned. Perhaps to avoid controversy you don’t kill any of the fish, you simply daze them with your weapons and then grab the treasure. You don’t kill the bosses either, one example being a giant octopus; you stun them, grab the treasure in the area and get out as fast as possible.
You will need to be careful with your movement and employ aggressive marine warfare to survive, as these innocent looking creatures will cause a severe dent in your submarine’s health. There’s something delightfully retro about this strange premise, with games of the NES age and before often including ludicrous scenarios and enemies.
This old-school theme extends to the difficulty, things getting tricky as the levels progress. The first two levels are a breeze, but there is then a steep increase in challenge. It’s not that you will die often, but that you may get stuck and have to restart at your last checkpoint. For example you may have one key but two locked doors: if you choose the wrong door you may be stuck with no way to progress, not that the game will tell you that. This trial and error puzzling may cause the red mist to descend, which will irritate some gamers while others may be provoked into ‘just one more go.’ For those in the latter category this is likely to keep you busy for a few hours.
Visually this is a solid title. The art design is bright and colourful, with items and features of the environment clear enough for you to know exactly what you’re doing. In one frustrating level the current of the water is represented by very faint lines, but these aren’t clear and can lead to frustrating periods of being dragged around by the current, while struggling to distinguish between different flows and make your escape. Overall though, this title is pleasing to look at and the bosses in particular look good.
The sound is a mixed bag. Sound effects are nicely done, with torpedoes having the expected effect but the music loops endlessly in every level and will get annoying. For the first five minutes it is cheering and pleasant, but considering that later levels take over 20 minutes to work through, we suggest finding an alternative soundtrack.
Captain Sub is a solid effort, especially at its budget price point. There are issues with annoying music, difficulty spikes and frustrating sections that will endanger the safety of your DSi. Yet this difficulty adds to the retro feel of the title, with older gamers likely to be drawn in by the compulsive need to beat the level. With a competent mix of shooting, exploring and trial and error puzzle solving, this is a game that can be reasonably fun, and gamers with old-school sensibilities may be tempted to dive in.