Anoxemia is an underwater sci-fi horror game, in which you play as a small drone, ATMA and a scientist, Dr. Bailey.
You begin your journey with a comic-esque introduction to our plot line, you were on a mission to collect plants from deep under the sea. However, your submarine failed, the mission failed and you are the only survivor.
This is where you get thrown into the game play, you control ATMA, you can move ATMA in all directions and Dr. Bailey “follows” you. With that, allow me to explain how the game functions, you are put in each level and are told to collect 3 underwater herbs. Great, that’s fine, I can do that. Upon starting the game, it’s honestly very atmospheric; the dark Limbo like visuals and creepy soundtrack make it initially, quite spooky.
You may have noticed I said “follows” earlier, because it’s more of a lazy meander towards your general location, and this is where we encounter the first of, unfortunately, many downsides of Anoxemia: the controls.
Whilst you may move in a fairly tight manner as ATMA, Dr. Bailey works on a tether to yourself, he springs towards you when you move, and as he’s the one you’re keeping alive. This becomes problematic. There are obstacles everywhere in this game and in the early levels you have nothing but movement to evade them. When your game, which is a continuous escort mission, fails to give you tight movement on your tethered friend it becomes quickly frustrating.
This control system wouldn’t be as frustrating however if everything didn’t kill you in a single hit and when you die you go right back to the start of the level. Once again this wouldn’t be all too much of a problem if the levels were, well, interesting.
After you get over the initial setting and the pretty visuals of the game you’re left with a frankly tedious game in which you collect 3 objects and move on and doing this over and over again as you die. Trust me you will die a lot but I’ll get to that later. The game unfortunately just grinds you down until you just don’t want to play the game. It’s too one dimensional and tries to rely too heavily on the loose story that was set up to create a sense of tension. Some of you may disagree with me on this, but after playing through the same thing 5 or 6 times you start to just want to get on with things and the nice visuals and atmospheric musical score gets thrown out the window. Ultimately, this brings about a bad gaming experience.
I’ve mentioned a lot of the bad about Anoxemia so let me talk about something that I really liked, Dr Bailey’s implied descent into insanity. Throughout the game Dr. Bailey keeps talking aloud about the fact he thinks ATMA is going to turn on him and leave him to die.
This something I found to be brilliant, not many games explore the concept of one of your characters being slowly turned against the other for no reason other than isolation. This is one of the reasons this game frustrates me, it has a few things like this littered into the game which could have blossomed into something amazing but everything just fell a little short.
I mentioned about dying a lot and I will stand by it, I died a lot in this game. Do not let this lull you into a false sense of difficulty that this game is not challenging; it’s hard to beat but it is not a challenge.
The objective, as mentioned, is to collect plants and this is simple. The avoidance of the obstacles are more or less simple, so how is this game hard to beat? Because it’s complete trial and error, to find out what an object is, any object, you must get close to it and use your sonar. The game will then put text next to the object vaguely telling you what said object is.
This is all well and good, except when that object is a cannon and while you were using sonar it’s already killed Dr. Bailey in one perfectly aimed shot.
These kind of deaths will happen constantly throughout the game, it’s an artificial difficulty and it’s not fun. It’s used to extend the lifespan of the game, which is actually very short, only 38 levels long.
In conclusion, Anoxemia could have been a great game, there is an underlining plot which has interesting elements, a concept of one of your characters slowly descending into madness and brilliant atmospheric visuals and musical score. Sadly, it all falls short and it’s all tainted by the game play itself.
The controls are abysmal, the game is artificially difficult with no real reward or challenge to justify this and you can tell that this was included because without it the game is very short. The continuous deaths just make you want to give up because the levels are so tedious to play through and are not engaging.
This review was based upon a PS4 copy kindly provided by BSK Games.