About twenty minutes into The Deer God, I was certain that the developers named the game as such not for the interesting plot featuring a deer deity, but after the sheer number of times players (particularly yours truly) mumbled “dear god” as they played the game.
The game’s very intriguing story wasn’t enough to candy coat the fact that I was playing a fairly basic platformer that was a notch too difficult thanks to a handful of unfortunate design decisions.
At it’s core, The Deer God is about running along as a deer, jumping across landscapes and avoiding all sorts of nasty forest animals and the random skeleton man (because video games). The game is shaped around a pretty neat idea that a hunter is struck by a bolt of lightning, killed, and then reincarnated as a deer.
What isn’t so neat is how the game plays out. As a deer you have two movement speeds: standing still and 50 miles-per-hour. This makes getting through the levels difficult because, by the time you can react to an enemy, you’re already on top of them and they’re probably eating you because you’re a useless baby deer.
You do have a dash attack, but unfortunately the dash attack is often misinterpreted by the game as you just wishing to run a short distance, since the gestures for both are almost exactly the same. If you don’t touch and swipe in the exact middle of the screen (because who needs to see the screen anyway?), The Deer God may or may not interpret your attack order.
The Deer God never claimed to be an obedient god.
The woods are full of spike pits which you’ll have to leap over or face instant death. Nothing that should be too difficult — I’ve been leaping over goombas and kremlings for nearly two decades now. But the game’s gorgeous 3D pixel art — the one thing that will really knock your socks off in The Deer God — sometimes gets in the way. You’ll be jumping around, leaping over pits and enemies, and then all of a sudden there’s a big tree blocking your field of view, obscuring your sight completely.
Another odd mechanic that The Deer God employs is a secondary reincarnation mechanic. It only happened once to me, but there was one point where I was killed by a porcupine because I kept just running into it rather than dashing into it. When I died, I respawned at the last checkpoint as a porcupine. Which was cool — until I realized I was completely stuck since the porcupine couldn’t jump as high as the deer could and I couldn’t leap over obstacles.
I literally had to wait until the porcupine starved to death so I could reincarnate back as the deer and resume playing the game.
And yes, you have to eat to survive. Feeding your deer is supposed to be as simple as running over some flowery plants. But sometimes the game doesn’t register it, so you’ll have to stop and stand on the plant to give The Deer God a chance to recognize what you’re trying to do.
The Deer God is an interesting game that’s packaged as a pretty platformer, but underneath all of that is a wonky experience that’s hard to recommend.