Scheduled to launch next month, Deep Blue Sea 2 is the second game from Danish studio The Game Equation and the follow-up to 2008’s match-3 Deep Blue Sea. While it’s almost unheard of to spend two whole years developing a sequel in the world of casual PC downloads, the developers of Deep Blue Sea 2 have put that time to good tweaking the gameplay and even adapting one of casual gaming’s most popular genres – hidden object – into the match-3 mix. Read on for Gamezebo’s hands-on impressions of the game’s first few levels.

It’s a couple of years since the events of the first game and Jessica – the former advertising executive turned treasure hunter whose exploits formed the story of the first Deep Blue Sea – has disappeared. Her younger sister Melissa receives a worn postcard with a note in Jessica’s handwriting written in the secret code that the two sisters invented when they were young. The note tells Melissa to go to Billinger Island, which is where the search for her sister – and her own adventure – begins.

Like the first game, levels in Deep Blue Sea 2 take the form of underwater dives where you’ll match various shells and undersea symbols in groups of three or more. There are two goals here: collect valuable treasures by making them fall to the bottom of the screen, and matching coins to fill up a treasure chest before your breathing tank runs out of air.

Deep Blue Sea 2

Before you go on a dive you can suit up with gear (power-ups) to help you on the playing field, such as tile-breakers that break a single tile, explosives that clear a 3×3 area of tiles, and extra air. You can either choose equipment yourself, or select “Auto Equip” and let the game choose what it thinks are the best power-ups to take along.

You’ll start out with Melissa, but eventually new divers will be added to your crew, each with different abilities and skills. For example, some are more savvy at finding treasure than others, while some can conserve more air on a dive. Characters earn experience from diving that increases their abilities even more.

Deep Blue Sea 2

In addition to the 200 levels of match-3 puzzles (that’s 60 more levels than the first game), there are brand new hidden object challenges that pop up every so often. These are large hand-drawn scenes – so large in fact that you need to scroll in order to see the whole thing by clicking on arrows. Hints recharge over time, and there is a timer but if your time runs down the worst that happens is you don’t get a bonus. You can go back and replay these hidden object challenges at any time; when we did, the items we were asked to find were different the second time around.

We’re looking forward to seeing even more of Deep Blue Sea 2 when the game launches in March, 2010.