The Deer God: Bambi meets Buddhism in this year’s weirdest indie prospect - Games Weekly

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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Deer God: Bambi meets Buddhism in this year’s weirdest indie prospect

ll of us are a single soul, travelling endlessly between bodies; fleshy wrapping paper covering the gift that is universal existence. You’d do well to remember this that life is the story and death mere punctuation especially when a hungry fox has just torn your throat out. The Deer God is a survival game, first and foremost. No matter what happens, you concentrate on bars signalling health or hunger. You look for ripened apples, avoid standing on porcupines. The game’s message that life is precious feeds directly into its gameplay.


You play a hunter, karmically killed as he offs a baby deer and reincarnated, as punishment, in the body of the fawn he shot. It’s sort of like Freaky Friday, as long as you don’t think about the implications of what a fawn’s consciousness would do in a human body. The game that follows is a procedurally generated platformer, and a caustically tough one. Your only objective is to live, grow up and die at the hands of time, as opposed to some ghost in a haunted Bayou paddle steamer (we should stress that this is an actual enemy type).
Your only objective is to grow up and die at the hands of time
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“I had wanted to do a game with reincarnation for a while”, says creative director, Josh Presseisen. “You could look at this and think, ‘Oh this is just another survival game.’ In reality it’s fairly complex, with multiple systems going on. I took inspiration from many classics, including Metroid, Cave Story, Ecco the Dolphin and a few others.”

Those references echo in the game’s gated progression (you earn abilities, such as double jumps or, er, fireball spells, as you travel) and sense of wordless exploration. You’ll have your deer trotting left-to-right over endlessly shifting biomes, from days to nights, varying the kind of food available, the amount of platforming and what form of predator you’ll be running from, whether it’s an alligator or one of your former fellow hunters. Given that it follows the ‘roguelike-like’ pattern of starting you over fresh upon death (unless you’ve hit a checkpoint), we worry that it could end up a little samey. It should help that the game is astonishingly good-looking, taking Sword & Sworcery’s expressive pixel art and extruding it into 3D you won’t mind waiting to grow antlers again when you get to watch the sun rise over a beautiful, scorched mesa.

And that’s to ignore the many promised endings, too if you kill your way through the world, your deer’s karma goes bad, leading to a sequence where you become a ‘lesser creature’, like a fox. Play virtuously and you might find yourself back in your human wrapping paper again. Then you could just shoot that goddamn fox in the face and go about your day. Ah, life.

What’s in a name?
Josh Presseisen gives us the scoop  no one else thought to look for
Of course, for any magazine writer, the real question here is what came first: the game idea or the punning title? For us, the latter is more common than you might think or indeed hope. So, did the team come up with the wordplay first? “No.” Oh. “The name was originally going to be Am I a Deer; Why - but then I changed it to The Deer God because I thought that was more catchy. And I like the pun.” Phew.

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