I’d never heard of Anoxemia before, but I’m really starting to enjoy games that are exploring the more terrifying side of the deep sea. The highest profile title that I’ve enjoyed that springs to mind is SOMA – as an intriguing thriller with a plot that borders on almost meta-commentary, I see some parallels between Anoxemia and SOMA. However, Anoxemia squanders its potential, and seems to be missing so much of what would make the otherwise interesting story worth experiencing – overall, the adventure feels cheap.
The story is one the major driving forces in Anoxemia. You play as an operations drone known as ATMA who is guiding a doctor, Bailey, through the deep sea to collect plant samples. On descent, Bailey is left isolated and, for reasons unknown, decides to continue with his experiment.Bailey is intent on following you, but doesn’t seem to know why he feels compelled to do so. This forms the bulk of the mystery in Anoxemia,as you seek to understand out who Bailey is and what he’s done to land himself in this deep sea predicament.The narrative of Anoxemia is easily its strongest element, which is a shame given most players won’t have the patience to experience it all. As you descend deeper into the environment, Bailey’s memory starts to become clearer and his backstory will gradually be revealed to you. There’s some meta-commentary on the agency of characters in games, and how the characters you control can affect the actions of others, but it all feels rather pretentious.
The conclusion, whilst fairly standard for this genre, does come as a surprise when Bailey finally remembers who he was and how he got there. The element of ‘fridge horror’ – a cerebral terror that grows over time – is a perfect fit in a game like Anoxemia. It’s just disappointing that it’s such a slog to get there.Essentially, through the game’s 30+ levels, you must guide Bailey past certain obstacles including turrets and mines to collect the desired plant samples. As you’d imagine, ATMA must also find oxygen supplies to ensure that Bailey doesn’t drown. The environments are varied enough – you’ll visit the ocean floor, a wrecked submarine and a secret research facility during your adventure. As you progress the level design gets more complex, which makes Anoxemia feel adequately paced.