I like infinite runner type games to a point, but they tend to get old pretty fast. I find it much more interesting when developers innovate within the genre and change the way things work in order to create a new experience as opposed to the same old thing with a new coat of paint.
To that end, I have to give credit to Johnny’s Entertainment. This is a group of just three students that worked together to try and build a new type of infinite runner titled Au Fond du Gouffre. This is a simple game that involves a man jumping into the ocean and trying to dive down as deep as he can. I’m not going to say that Johnny’s Entertainment successfully improved the genre and created a new experience that’s to die for, but for three students this is a solid first game that tries to do things differently even if just slightly.
Au Fond du Gouffre is comprised of simple 8 bit graphics with a decent amount of colours and limited texture use. The game contains 3 screens: the title screen, which only allows you to start the game or enter the shop; the shop, where you obviously buy upgrades; and the game, which is one simple continuously moving screen. Of the three, the shop is the most impressive looking but also the easiest to spot flaws in. A lot of the graphics look hand drawn which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but at times it’s noticeable. The rain graphics are a nice touch and look very good.
The in game graphics are quite simple. There are spikes on the sides along with some additional decorations which I assume are meant to represent coral and such, but they look shoddy. The spikes look fine, but the add-on decorations are sloppy. The background is a flat blue with little bubbles rushing through it and the occasional whale silhouette which has no actual effect on the gameplay. One time I even saw two whales at the same time. What’s cool is that the background gets darker as you descend lower and even gets to black if you can descend deep enough. The text runs off the screen a bit which doesn’t affect gameplay, but it is visually disappointing to see in a game.
The interactive in-game elements are sharks and dolphins, both of which look pretty good and are easily recognizable. Their swim graphics are pretty solid, but not overly intricate. Upgrades are shown in an interactive way as well. Speed of descent is one of the most important if not the most important elements of the visual aspects of the gameplay and it’s fine. The bubbles and such speed up and slowdown in an appropriate manner.
My biggest problem with the graphics is the fact that you can’t re-size the window. There’s no choice of resolution or a full screen mode and the game will cut off if your screen isn’t big enough or your resolution settings aren’t compatible with the game’s window. Interestingly you can still play effectively depending on how much of the screen is cut off. I give the graphics a C+ plus overall.
The gameplay is very simple, but also flawed. Your objective is to descend as deep as possible. At the beginning of each round you sink fairly fast but over time you slow down considerably. This makes no real sense because the character is carrying a giant cannonball, but whatever. As you descend there are sharks and dolphins. Sharks grab you and take you down lower, while dolphins grab you and take you back up higher thus reducing your score.
The two animals are very unbalanced. Sharks last for only a short time and often give you little progress, but the dolphins hold on for considerably longer and have a much greater effect on your total score. Something interesting, but kind of odd, about the animals is that when you hit two overlapping animals you are hit by both, one after the other.
The way each round ends really needs work. They just end for no visible reason. You’re descending and then suddenly without warning it’s game over. I tried to create an excuse to justify it to myself such as the character finally suffocated, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is no indication of when or why the rounds will end. The game should have some sort of timer or any sort of justification for when you lose.
The way each round ends really needs work.
At the end of each round you earn $1 for each meter you descend. This is probably the only time that I feel the 1 to 1 money to score ratio is too generous. You use the money, which does accumulate and save from play to play, to purchase upgrades in the shop. There are four upgrades to choose from: steak, cannonball, anchor, and seaweed.
Steak attracts sharks. It doesn’t automatically get them to grab you, but it makes them move towards you instead of just keeping straight like they usually do. The cannonball upgrade increases your speed of descent (sort of). The anchor is a head start and seaweed gives you dolphin immunity.
Each upgrade can be levelled up to a max of 4 with an additional $1000 added to each level cost, making one max upgrade cost $10,000 and all 4 costing $40,000. This may sound like a lot but actually it’s not. Once you’ve upgraded a bit you can easily hit $1000 or more a round and each round lasts maybe 2 minutes. You’ll have all the upgrades in less than an hour easy.
The biggest problem with the gameplay is the controls. You only move from left to right so it’s pretty simple, but the steering isn’t great. On PC you have to play with the mouse and it works ok, but keys would be preferable in my opinion. The problem with mouse controls though is that because the game runs in a thin window and can’t be played in full screen, you have to move the mouse outside of the window to get effective movement. As with most games that work like that, your cursor placement gets thrown off very quickly and it’s not that responsive to begin with. Considering the simplicity of the gameplay it’s not a huge problem, but it is very noticeable. There’s also quite a bit of lag at times when starting and ending rounds.
I have to note that the gameplay is much too easy. You can let it run on its own and you’ll get at least 500 meters just about every time until you buy some upgrades at which point you’ll get even more. The game could amass enough money on its own to max out everything in probably no more than 2 hours. My high score is 2090 meters, but I have seen the game achieve 1414 on its own, which is higher than my girlfriend’s high score. While this game is interesting in a few ways, the gameplay is just too easy and flawed on PC. I haven’t tried the mobile version, but I do believe that it would be a much better experience on a touch screen.
Sadly there are no sound effects in Au Fond du Gouffre. I would really have liked to hear a shark’s jaw snap and a dolphin call, but at the same time I think it would probably get annoying after the first few times so in the long run Johnny’s Entertainment probably made the right call.
Sadly there are no sound effects in Au Fond du Gouffre.
The music is good, but limited. It’s crystal clear and well done for a game of such small scope, but it gets very repetitive. There are only three tracks. One for each of the three screens and they constantly loop. The loop breaks aren’t too obvious though so that’s good. I’d have to say that the music is upbeat yet eerily appropriate for a game about a man committing suicide by drowning. Or at least the title screen and shop tracks are. The gameplay track matches the gameplay perfectly, but is a bit too cheery for the plot in my opinion. This is much more apparent when directly compared to the other two tracks. The sound is probably the strongest aspect of the game in all honesty.
While there is no in game plot given, the game’s one sentence description paints a very believable yet ultimately depressing and slightly uncomfortable picture of what the game is about. “You play as a depressed guy that wants to suicide by going under water as deep as possible in the ocean.” It’s not the first game with such a plot, but it’s still quite sombre especially considering it was created by students.
You play as a depressed guy that wants to suicide by going under water as deep as possible in the ocean.
The only other writing in the game is the basic menus and item descriptions. There’s not any text during gameplay except your final score. All the text is written in French, but it’s very easy to figure out what everything means. Essentially the only thing you have to “read” is the upgrade descriptions in the shop which are pretty obvious in the first place. While completely unnecessary, I do think that it would be nice to have the description or some kind of title card added to the game in order to give players who don’t read the description context for what’s actually going on.
Au Fond du Gouffre has very little to no replay value. Unlike most infinite games, there are so few objectives and unlockables to accomplish here. Maxing all the upgrades takes no time at all. You can, as I did, max them all out in under an hour. I’ll even be honest and say that I let the game run on its own while I was eating to make up most of those points because it’s that easy to grab distance once you have some of the upgrades. There are no leaderboards, high score recordings, or stats listed so basically once you’ve gotten all the upgrades you just play until you stop caring. This lack of motivation to keep playing and low challenge difficulty definitely lowers the game’s value. You just don’t feel like you’re building towards anything.
. . . very little to no replay value.
The game is free to play and can be downloaded or run in a browser. Usually I would recommend to download games when they’re free, but you’ll most likely get bored with it so fast that there’s no reason to actually download the game. You’ll get an hour or 2 out of it tops and that’s probably being generous.
Au Fond du Gouffre is available on both android and PC (Mac included), but my honest opinion is that it’s better suited to a mobile game. On PC it just falls short of what’s expected from games today. Even in the indie community, I’ve played some very impressive, yet very simple PC games. As an app game I wouldn’t be nearly as critical of it, but I admittedly have much lower expectations for mobile games. It’s certainly worth giving it a try in the web browser, but with the flawed PC controls and lack of replay value it’s nothing you need to own. On the plus side, my girlfriend really liked the game.
- Easy to learn
- Low PC requirements
- Free to play and to win
- Too easy to master
- No replay value
- Controls need tuning