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Anoxemia Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . This is yet another example of a bad game with a compelling setup. Between the science fiction story and the unique location, Anoxemia has a lot of untapped potential. But any good aspects are thwarted by terrible controls and way too much backtracking. Anoxemia is a baffling adventure that isn't worth diving into. Rating: 40%
Anoxemia
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  • Review Score:

  • C-
From old sculptures to a collection of used tires to wreckage from Apollo 11, you can find a lot of interesting things underwater. It's a mysterious world that's inherently dark and spooky, something that has helped inspire some of the greatest movie directors of all time. Unfortunately, I've been to the depths and spend hours searching underwater, and I'm here to tell you that I couldn't find a good game in Anoxemia.

As a setup, it's hard not to be excited to dive into this debut title from Ukrainian developer BSK Games. You play a researcher who is tasked with collecting some samples from a contaminated area under the sea. But things go terribly wrong when all communication is lost and his submarine crashed on the ocean floor. This has all the makings of an insanely tense adventure game where our hero is constantly looking to survive and make it home safely.


I knew something was wrong right from the get-go, when I realized that you're not actually controlling the lone survivor. Instead you move an orb around the screen that our hero is supposed to follow. Frustratingly, that's not as easy as it sounds, and the diver will constantly get stuck on his rocky surroundings and have a hard time following along. This makes his job of picking up useful items and replenishing his oxygen to be a nightmare, which in turn made playing this game a real pain.

Anoxemia is split into 38 bite-sized levels, each with the goal of finding the required pickups needed in order to advance. There are occasional moments that hint at a larger science fiction story, but you're mostly just searching the ocean's floor for plants and power-ups. We're given sonar that can highlight both good and bad things in the surrounding area, as well as a harpoon gun that you can use to move stubborn boulders and a spark that can short-circuit the magnetic fields sprinkled around the level. All of these things will come in handy as you explore what should have been a fascinating world.

The game is at its best when you're puzzling your way through the various stages. You'll occasionally need to destroy walls and block air flows in order to advance, which can get complicated as you move through the increasingly difficult stages. While most of the stages are too simple for their own good, there were a few parts that made me see the potential of a game like this and why the developers would want to make it in the first place.

Anoxemia (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

But every time I started to come around on Anoxemia, the game would seemingly go out of its way to yank be back to reality. One of the biggest issues is that it's far too dark and hard to navigate. It's not always clear where the walls are and why you can't get around. There are levels where you can barely see where the passages are, to the point where it often felt like I was swimming blind. You would think that the sonar equipment might make this easier, but it doesn't. And even if you do find where you're supposed to be going, the diver will sometimes ignore your commands and do his own thing. It's really frustrating.

Of course, the real problem is that you're occasionally forced to replay past levels because you accidentally didn't find a power-up or oxygen boost. I hit a wall about half way through where I spent a good hour trying to figure out what to do, only to realize that I hadn't found enough power-ups in a previous stage. It's far too easy to skip past the supposedly optional crates before finishing a stage, only to later realize that going back and finding them is the only way to advance the story. This happened multiple times in my playthrough, mostly because the game is incredibly bad at explaining what you'll need going forward. This isn't fun, and I wouldn't be surprised if most people eventually give up instead of backtrack.

And even if you do find the power-ups you need, the game has a bad tendency of putting them out of reach. There were several times when I would open a crate and discover that the power-up was stuck in a wall, making it literally impossible for me to pick it up. Going back and replaying the stage doesn't work, because the crate and power is gone. This means you'll have to backtrack even more, which, like I said, is not fun.

Anoxemia (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

If Anoxemia gets anything right, it's the tranquil tone and atmosphere. There's a soothing vibe to the game that is both relaxing and a little scary, which could have been the building blocks to a truly memorable experience. Unfortunately, this underwater adventure is memorable for all the wrong reasons.

This is yet another example of a bad game with a compelling setup. Between the science fiction story and the unique location, Anoxemia has a lot of untapped potential. But any good aspects are thwarted by terrible controls and way too much backtracking. Anoxemia is a baffling adventure that isn't worth diving into.
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