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Review by: Matt Plumb
Published: November 20, 2000
Discussing any game with a tightly-clad female protagonist is a complex issue. Is the use of a woman as a lead character an attempt to appeal to a pubescent audience, or an honest attempt to prove that women are just as capable as men? In the gaming industry, as discussed in Nick Stewart’s column on this subject, it’s pretty clear that the issue is skewed towards the former supposition. The depiction of such characters as Rynn from Drakan, Alison from Space Bunnies Must Die, and the ubiquitous Lara Croft is less than flattering, adding credence to the “sex sells” angle of their existence. New to the ranks of these dubious heroines is Jennifer Connors, the protagonist of Cyberscape Graphics’ Deep Raider. Does her similarity with Lara Croft end with the title of the game, or is Jennifer simply another wetsuit-wearing cyber-bimbo vying for the attention of fourteen-year-old consumers?
One thing that sets Jennifer apart from her counterparts is the fact that she can mentally communicate with sea creatures. This talent earned her a place in the elite Navy S.E.A.L. unit, where she was utilized as a secret agent by the government until her recent retirement. Of course, when a undersea research facility codenamed DEEP is beset by mysterious attackers, she is yanked away from her idyllic lifestyle to investigate. Her task will involve her with a high level weapons program, a destructive enzyme known as X-118, and of course, a government coverup. The manual details this prologue, but in an interesting move, also reveals the entire story of the game from beginning to end.
Lack of surprising plot twists aside, Deep Raider takes Jennifer through six missions (also described in excessive detail in the manual), which chronicle her exploration of the DEEP complex and its surroundings. These missions all take place underwater, tasking Jennifer with the completion of a variety of simple objectives, from repairing a damaged transmitter to defeating a giant mutated sea creature. Jennifer’s telepathy allows her to communicate with certain animals to gain clues as to the true nature of her missions. Throughout the levels, she can also be paired with four helpful creatures that aid her in her travels.
Jennifer’s four animal companions, the dolphin, stingray, turtle, and mutant life form, give her different abilities when she rides them. The dolphin is nimble and acrobatic, and can perform various flips and turns both below and above the water. The second companion, the stingray, can move straight up and down, in addition to being able to generate a current with its wings. The sea turtle is slow, but well-armored and able to make tighter turns, while the mutant life form has a number of mysterious abilities depending on how long Jennifer stays with it. All of these animal companions allow Jennifer to recharge her limited oxygen supply; she can separate from them, but she won’t last long on her own.
In the depths of the ocean, Jennifer also faces a variety of obstacles that make her mission more difficult, such as sinister mutants, robots, misguided government troops a la Half Life, and other underwater hazards. The enemies can be dispatched using Jennifer’s standard plasma rifle or guided torpedoes, while the natural hazards, such as cyclones or toxic waste spills, must be evaded.
Jennifer can also collect a number of items to help her in her quest. Medical kits can heal any damage that she might have sustained, while bait can be used to distract swarms of sharks or other predators. Extra torpedoes can also be found floating under the surface, and special items such as keycards and time bombs are rare, but essential to the completion of her objectives.
Deep Raider comes packaged with a JoyMouse, an interesting little gamepad that is intended to serve as both controller and mouse, as one might infer from its name. A button switches the JoyMouse from joystick to mouse mode, and it also features standard switches such as turbo, slow motion, and analog/digital mode toggle. The JoyMouse works fine as a game interface, but due to the slow manner in which the directional pad moves the pointer, it won’t replace your real mouse anytime soon.
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