Overall Score 82%
In a far away undersea kingdom, a beautiful mermaid works in her garden and dreams of becoming the Royal Gardener. This is the prize at stake in the regular gardening contest, but her hopes are low. After all, she's competing against some stiff competition with far more money than herself. She cannot afford all the plants and ornaments that they can.
A friendly seahorse then makes a suggestion. If our mermaid is willing to explore the ocean depths, she can find all the garden accoutrements she desires. Thus a rather unusual quest begins - helping a mermaid to design prizewinning underwater gardens. Having learned all this, I was intrigued. However would such a game work?
The answer is, somewhat disappointingly, by a collapsing gem game. A series of puzzles in a variety of shapes will appear, filled with an array of different symbols, and your task is to clear groups of three or more connected symbols by clicking on them. As you clear some, others fall down the screen to replace them. Your aim is not to clear symbols, however, but tiles - behind the symbols, some squares are occupied by these tiles and your aim is destroy all tiles by collecting the symbols in front of them. Some tiles will require more than one clearance and, if you are too slow, tiles can even reappear.
Special tiles can appear including bombs and row/column/diagonal blasters, as well as the occasional coins. Grab those to buy powerups in the shop. Further complications include locked symbols, which need to be unlocked by matching them with free versions of the same symbol or blowing them up, and stones (which can only be removed by bombs, etc). As some shapes feature tiles that cannot be removed by matching, the use of special tiles and powerups becomes rather important. And of course this is all done against the clock!
That said, this is not a difficult game to learn or to play. Simply clicking on groups of symbols will clear them, and when you hover over a symbol you can see all of the symbols that will be removed (if any) vibrate in their places. Time limits are (for the early stages at least) quite generous and I'm not aware of ever being left without a move. That said, you will need to use powerups when the game gets going properly, as clearing all tiles on later levels within the time limit without them may prove very difficult indeed.
Graphics are largely high quality - the live action fish in the background as you play are particularly good - with the various symbols to match animating when you pass the mouse cursor over them. Symbols are pretty easy to distinguish, though tiles are less so. Periodically you have a jigsaw puzzle minigame, in which you need to swap pieces to make an underwater picture - these are pretty, but with no limit on moves or time they lack any form of challenge. The cartoon strip that details the mermaid's storyline is very different in style, however.
Sound largely consists of a range of gentle sound effects, such as a kind of "glink" for matching symbols, and a few background tunes. I'm pleased to report that they match the underwater theme of the game but they can get a little repetitive.
I found Deep Voyage to be immensely playable, but lacking any real challenge. Finding matches is easy - just wave your cursor around and one will leap out at you! If you get stuck, there are various powerups available from the shop - each comes in a range of power levels and has a time limit before you can use it again, but otherwise their use is unlimited. Some of these powerups are very expensive and I have not had opportunity to try them out as yet, though you can sell powerups back if you need the cash.
With over 200 puzzles, Deep Voyage is a game with plenty of life before you reach the end. These are divided over six maps, cover three gardens and feature a variety of shapes (I liked the anchor!) but, once you've seen all the powerups, it gets a little samey. You have limited replay possibility in the garden designs - your garden "upgrades" occasionally branch and only allow one choice - but I'm not sure this is a big enough draw to replay the entire game.
This is a good looking game with great appeal for the casual gamer and those not keen on fast paced action, but seasoned puzzlers may find this a little too easy for their taste. As your progress is automatically saved, this may be better played in short bursts to unwind rather than sat down at for several hours at a time.
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