Waypoint's The Pick-Me-Up column, written by Chris Schilling, appears here every couple of weeks to highlight a video game—new or old, but easily playable on current systems—that'll make you smile.
I first encountered Oh, Deer! in 2015, when it earned a smattering of coverage in the specialist press for being the last ever game on Sony's ill-fated PlayStation Mobile service. Having planned to write about the excellent Hidden Folks this week—before being cruelly gazumped by Mike [apologies—MD]—I was looking for alternatives when I stumbled across it once more, this time in its PC incarnation.
Oh, Deer! is the kind of game that feels like it was made for the specific purpose of being stumbled across, actually. It's the equivalent of idly browsing the shelves of Blockbuster in your youth, before picking out a film you've never heard of before and realizing you've unearthed a hidden gem. Sure, it's weird and slightly wonky, but you end up falling under its spell all the same.
At first, it looks a bit like one of those sledgehammer-subtle games PETA sporadically releases, this time warning against the dangers of driving recklessly in areas densely populated by ruminants. It plays, however, like Out Run with added gore, as you traverse an endless, undulating ribbon of tarmac that shifts impossibly between unconnected environments.
Among others, you'll race along a city road flanked by skyscrapers, a thick jungle and a desert path that winds past towering pyramids beneath an angry orange sky. Then there's a twilit section set who-knows-where that features a suspension bridge, windmills, crops and Moai statues.
And, of course, there's the deer—long rows of them, stretching down straights and often following the perfect racing line of a bend. For your first few goes, you'll struggle to avoid plowing through at least some of them, and their simple sprites will immediately fragment into bloody chunks: a hind leg disappearing off the top of the screen here, a head bouncing off the bonnet of your ramshackle station wagon there.
Related, on Waypoint: An Abridged History of Sega's Awesome Arcade Racers
Eventually, you'll master the drifting mechanic, which involves briefly taking your foot off the gas and tapping the brake as you enter a bend before stepping back on the accelerator to slide sideways around it. If you're good, you'll skid around corners in a neat arc, gliding past a dozen or so deer and leaving them entirely unharmed.
Or, you might fancy taking them all down in a single drift. The choice is yours, and you're not judged for it. If you run out of petrol (which gets topped up at checkpoints) then your score for the deer you hit and those you missed will be totted up.
It's basically a classic arcade racer with a delightfully macabre twist, at once comfortingly familiar and thrillingly different. Each crash, for example, produces an effect that resembles an anaglyph 3D image viewed without red-and-blue glasses. There's something just slightly off about the parallax scrolling, too, which only adds to the woozy, dreamlike feel. It's topped off by an outlandishly weird score from Japanese composer Motohiro Kawashima, best known for writing the soundtrack for classic Sega brawler Streets of Rage 3.
Oh, Deer! is available now from the Humble store for a mere £6.66—an apt price for a game that has a little of the devil in it. Though it feels like a complete title, developer Necrosoft Games still considers it a beta version—the idea being that if enough people buy it, the studio will have the opportunity to make it bigger and better. And, in all probability, weirder.
In other words, it's a game that's in lockstep with the company motto: "Stupid games for jerks like us." Well, I'm a jerk, but this is my kind of stupid.