The hunter becomes the hunted in this 2D pixel-art platformer. Transformed into a deer by the Elder Gods, six relics must be found in order to become human again.
Often mistaken for junk, these relics are handed out as rewards for completing the six pleasingly nonsensical quests at hand. If youâ€™re thinking that six is a small number, youâ€™re right. Like life itself, The Deer God is but a fleeting moment.
The first quest sets the pace and tone for whatâ€™s to come. After spending a brief period in deer form, youâ€™re politely asked by a bleary-eyed old man to find his monocle within the bushes outside his wooden shack – a mission that also teaches the boost dash move. Another quest involves helping a priest spread the word of God. We thought this may take us on a globe-trotting voyage, but no – just two people are required to be informed of the lordâ€™s greatest, both of which are stood outside the church. The other four quests donâ€™t take a great deal of time (or brainpower) to beat either, save for a couple of instances of trial and error that could possibly be perceived as â€˜out of the boxâ€™ thinking.
There are no stages, levels or whatnot – the lay of the land â€œloopsâ€ with the quest givers, block pushing puzzles that bestow new skills and gateways to optional boss battles reappearing until you stop and beat them. Generally speaking, a â€œloopâ€ takes around ten minutes to come back around, taking our intrepid deer across deserts, through jungles and even the arctic. It took us around an hour to get our head around how the level design works, such is its peculiar nature. You donâ€™t backtrack – you rally forth, hoping that the NPC you need to turn a quest into, or the statue in which the relics are placed, will eventually appear.
Even the morality system (killing predators good; harmless animals bad) isnâ€™t explained, let alone the requisite to eat berries and other foodstuffs. It is however debatable if explanations were ever needed. It certainly doesnâ€™t help though that some of the block pushing puzzles can be messed up by shoving blocks into incorrect places, prompting you to start running again until the same puzzle loops back round. Moments of utter cluelessness are indeed frequent – at one point we were under the impression that weâ€™d encountered a glitch, when the reality was that we had overlooked the final stage of a puzzle.
It may sound frustrating, but for most part itâ€™s quite the opposite – The Deer God is incredibly endearing, if youâ€™ll excuse the pun. The music is tranquil, the artwork well drawn – the sunsets are a notable highlight – and there is joy to be had by working things out for yourself. The same goes for experimenting with the power-ups, which include summonable hawks that swoop down on enemies.
Penalties for failure are minimal and this also helps to keep frustration levels low – as well as extra lives, which are sometimes found two at a time, itâ€™s possible to respawn as a fawn and start life anew. A fawn from your own seed, no less – itâ€™s possible to â€˜get jiggyâ€™ with female deer. Male deer meanwhile will gallantly run alongside the hero…until haplessly falling into a pit of spikes. AI really isnâ€™t The Deer Godâ€™s strong point.
By now itâ€™s bound to be clear that this is a very unusual game. In light of some ideas working better than others, it’s fair to say the developers didn’t quite manage to fulfil their vision of an offbeat platformer about life and reincarnation. But while The Deer God isnâ€™t the greatest ‘Games with Gold’ freebie so far, it might just be the most peculiar. And that counts for something.