Game Reviews

Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale

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Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale

The violent dystopian morality tale of the BioShock console series might seem like a strange choice for a rather saccharine hidden-object game, but the superficial parallels between 2K Games's mega hit and Empress of the Deep are hard to miss.

The first title in Big Fish Games's series took place in mysterious Rapture-like underwater world, while the sequel is set in a floating city not a million miles away from the setting of the forthcoming BioShock: Infinity.

In terms of gameplay, however, the two titles are miles apart, and only the hidden object-hunting faithful will prefer this deeply casual adventure title.

A whale of a time

Waking up on a beach after the destruction of her underwater kingdom in the first game (sorry, SPOILER ALERT), Anna blithely accepts instructions from a beached dolphin on how to reach a mystical cloud city above.

It's like the opening of Lost, only told through the prism of an acid trip (perhaps), and it makes not a jot of sense. But, perhaps due to the sharply rendered levels and plinky plunky soundtrack, Song of the Blue Whale has a slightly barmy appeal to keep you plugging away with the rote gameplay.

Across the nine fairly brief chapters, you'll do a modest amount of exploring (well, tapping to go to a different areas), solve occasional puzzles that wouldn't cause Professor Layton to break a sweat (matching shapes and patterns is apparently the only trick in the designer's brainteaser book), and hidden object-hunting.

The latter is the most common challenge, and breaks no new ground in the formula. You can pinch-zoom to scour for items on a pre-set list, but randomly touching anything visible will unearth the majority of pieces with minimal effort.

Opening Pandora's Box

A generous 'hint' button, which refills pretty quickly, ensures you'll never be stuck for more than a few seconds at a time, but only the obtuseness of the missions themselves produces any real challenge.

Often you'll need to backtrack across a whole level to pick up an item you couldn't have possibly noticed before, and would never have known you needed without the hints.

Issues like this suggest that too little care has gone into drawing you into the story. Your main goal, for example, is to rescue four Children of Light, but it takes a good while to work out why they're important and why Anna should be bothered anyway.

Empress of the Deep 2 is undoubtedly a superficially pretty game that casual hidden object fans will probably lap up, but everyone else is just going to wish the Rapture was actually coming to mobiles.

Android version reviewed.

Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale

A gentle, often sumptuous-looking adventure that's let down by trite hidden object challenges, insipid puzzles, and a bemusing story
Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
A newspaper reporter turned games journo, Paul's first ever console was an original white Game Boy (still in working order, albeit with a yellowing tinge and 30 second battery life). Now he writes about Android with a style positively dripping in Honeycomb, stuffed with Gingerbread and coated with Froyo