Rating: 5 out of 5.

SHINSEKAI: Into the Depths (2019), stylized as 深世海 Into the Depths (translated as “the world of the deep sea” according to Dualshockers) is a Capcom action-adventure game, or “Metroidvania” (which I hear is referred to as the “search-action” genre in Japan) made for iOS via Apple Arcade and Nintendo Switch.

You play as the “Aquanaut,” a deep sea diver who lives in a small underwater cabin sometime in the future. While the delivery of the story is rather subtle, the premise goes that due to thermonuclear catastrophe an endlessly expanding mass of ice threatens to consume the planet, forcing at least some portion of humanity into the sea in order to survive. A sense of chilling isolation is apparent at the start of the game, and remnants of highways, buildings, and other structures litter the background throughout the game as a result of this post-apocalyptic scenario.

While I’ve only played this game on my Switch, my guess is that the game feels very good on an Apple device too. I’m not into mobile gaming, so I haven’t played many phone games, and the sidescrollers I’ve played felt worse to control than anything I’ve played outside of phones, no doubt because phone interfaces aren’t specifically designed for games. The controls in this game, however, feel like they would suit phones exceedingly well. Because the game takes place underwater, movement is sluggish and floaty, but also very free. You can move in any direction (on a 2D plane), and by pressing against surfaces, you can cling to them and scale them or rebound off of them. You can also boost in any direction using oxygen from your tank, but watch out, because if you hit into a surface too fast, you’ll crack one of your oxygen tanks and lose it.

Oxygen is limited, naturally, so you’ll have to make sure not to run out of it. Your suit has a base tank, and you can attach additional tanks, but the additional tanks will break if you smash into a surface too fast as mentioned before, or if you’re struck by enemies. Oxygen tanks are lying around all over the place for you to pick up, and there are air vents that replenish your oxygen when you stand over them. You can craft items that let you repair your damaged oxygen tanks, and can also upgrade your suit so it holds more base oxygen and more tanks over time.

Upgrading your suit is a central mechanic and is how you progress in the game. By improving your suit, you can withstand the pressure of even deeper sea levels, allowing you to explore further into the depths. Other upgrades are for things like oxygen capacity, item capacity, and maneuverability. In order to upgrade your suit, you’ll have to collect various minerals and other resources, most of which can be mined in hidden mineral deposits in the walls of the underwater labyrinth you find yourself in. To detect those deposits, you’ll need to either use your flashlight or produce sound waves which will make deposits appear on your radar. This is where the “search” in “search-action” comes in, and it makes up the bulk of the experience.

But the game is not lacking in action, and just as you would expect from a game set in the deep sea, there are all kinds of weird creatures to face. The deeper into the ocean your adventure takes you, the weirder these creatures get, and the more dangerous they become. To protect yourself, you’re armed with a gun that will eventually be able to fire a variety of different harpoon types as you progress in the game. The nuclear ice is also a major hazard and frequent obstacle, and even coming in direct contact with it for any length of time is deadly. There are even full fledged boss fights throughout the game, too.

In the classic Capcom fashion, saving is done at specific locations, which are what looks like tape players chained to the sea floor. Certain save points are at first locked and must be opened up by using cassette tapes that you find throughout the game. Eventually, you’ll also obtain a submarine equipped with a drill that will allow you to traverse larger caverns and keep your oxygen levels full, as well as a friendly little drone that will assist you in finding objects of interest and ways to progress further.

By the way, if you’re an audiophile, you’ll appreciate this game. Despite it being an iOS game, Capcom decided to record authentic underwater sounds at frozen lakes for the game, and the game even opens with a message suggesting that you play with wired headphones plugged in. I highly recommend doing this. With headphones, you’ll be able to hear more sound effects and the beautiful soundtrack at a greater depth, ramping up the atmosphere and bringing the game to life.

SHINSEKAI is truly a well-crafted experience and one that I adore, and it is largely thanks to the unique and superbly fitting theme that Capcom selected for this type of game, a tendency that I commonly encounter in Japanese art. Areas are vast, and there are few loading screens in the game. Unlike your average other “Metroidvania,” the maps in SHINSEKAI aren’t corridor-like and blocky but instead have an organic morphology to them, an unconventional trait I found welcoming. With these features and all that the game offers spanning several maze-like areas, SHINSEKAI reaches a level of quality and polish one would not expect from a game that is sold on Apple Arcade.

SHINSEKAI: Into the Depths is available on iOS and Nintendo Switch. You can also obtain the magnificent soundtrack on Steam at the following links: Link 1 and Link 2.