The Deer God

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
The Deer God Game Poster Image
Reincarnation game gets lost in repetition and confusion.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Harming others through use of magic (even animals) is frowned upon.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As a hunter transformed into a deer, you learn empathy for your prey.

Ease of Play

Simple controls, easy to learn.

Violence & Scariness

You'll die a lot, but the worst you'll see when defending yourself against predators is a few red pixels flying about.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Deer God is a straightforward downloadable running-and-jumping game. You play as a hunter, reincarnated as a young doe, who then strangely goes about killing a bunch of animals while on a quest to go to the right side of the screen and atone for your acts as a human. There are not many philosophical or moral lessons to learn other than the main one -- do no harm -- but it gets confused while you, as mentioned, kill a lot of other animals.

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What's it about?

When THE DEER GOD opens, you're a hunter who's shot and killed a stag deep in the woods. As punishment, the titular deer god takes your life and puts your life force in a young doe. From there, you wander a pixelated forest and lots of different vistas to uncover why this has happened to you. Along the way, you learn about the plight all animals go through just trying to survive among each other, as well as about the assortment of hassles and threats humans incur upon them. It's an exploration in empathy and compassion. 

Is it any good?

Unfortunately, The Deer God falls flat in largely everything it sets out to do except rendering gorgeous nature scenes. The pixelated art style conveys a surprising amount of warmth and depth, but it's about the best thing this game has going for it. Navigating the landscapes feels dull and extremely repetitive, especially as you will die often and be reincarnated at previous save points. That's another odd thing about The Deer God: You will amass so many extra lives that enemies and spikes do not truly pose the threat they're intended to. All this adds up to an experience where you mosey about, aimlessly accomplishing your goals with extreme leisure.

But even accomplishing your goals can be confusing. You are meant to monitor your karma levels, but the hierarchy of animals is just as confused: Harm any herbivore, and you will be docked. But regardless of what's done during play, it's possible to amass loads of good karma and unlock the bad-karma magic or spells. There's a lot at play here, but very little of it gels together either in a satisfying way or even in an objective way. There's a lot that could have been neat and impressive here, but The Deer God is a tough one to recommend.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about animals and how they're like, and not like, humans. How do we resemble animals? How do we differ?

  •  Do you think your pet has feelings? What about animals in the wild? 

  • Why do people hunt? What do they think of animals if they're able to hunt them? 

  • What does compassion mean? Can you think of a time when you should have shown more compassion but felt unable to? Why couldn't you?

Game details

Themes & Topics

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