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Hydrophobia Review (XBLA)

Game Review: Hydrophobia
Release: Wednesday 29th, September
Genre: Action & Adventure, Shooter
Developer: Dark Energy Digital
Available Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade
Players: 1 Player
MSRP: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Website: http://www.hydrophobia-game.com/

Hydrophobia is a survival-adventure video game developed by Dark Energy Digital. The game uses Dark Energy’s new HydroEngine, which provides realistic fluid dynamics technology for flowing water, allowing it to interact with the surroundings. Supposed to release last year, Hydrophobia got delayed and has since opted for an episodic release with the first episode releasing this Wednesday 29th, September.

You play as Kate. A woman who is on board The Queen of the World — referred in the game as ‘the city at sea’, a city sized vessel that was built because of ‘The Great Population Flood’. — who encounters the rebel group Neo Malthusian , who are trying to steal this huge vessel. It’s the 10th anniversary of The Queen of the World and NanoCell, one of the Five Founding Fathers of the ship, is expected to make a breakthrough announcement which the whole world will be watching — that is until this rebel group try and steal it. The Neo Malthusian have one motto, ‘Save the world, Kill yourself!’. This motto can be seen on the walls when using the MAVI (Mobile Automated Visual Interface), an in-game flexible screen which Kate possesses.

The main story has only 3 acts. Each act takes place on a different part of the ship. Act 1 on the lowest deck, Act 2 in the middle deck and Act 3 on the highest deck. I found the repetitiveness of the game annoying. All you do is jump around, dive, swim, hide, and kill. Each act is relatively the same as the last. The main story was interesting, but it just didn’t have me hooked.

The only thing I found impressive in Hydrophobia was the water effects.  The unique HydroEngine allows you to interact with the environment, and the realistic water dynamics. The fascinating thing about the water physics is that it is constantly affecting every area of the environment. You have to adapt and react quickly because water can rush in from doors, walls and windows and the water level rises and lowers alike. When you first shoot a window, then see water rushing in and fill up the room — it was impressive I must admit, but it didn’t blow me away like I thought it would. The game also has a challenge room. It’s basically a survival mode. You fight wave upon wave of enemies until you die which is pretty fun.

I’m a huge fan of what Hydrophobia was trying to accomplish — stunning water physics and a sense of claustrophobia. The only problem is, the game doesn’t do this very well. It’s plagued by so many things that it’s hard to see past the bad and focus on the good. The game lacks a sense of direction. So many times I have thought to myself, ‘Where on earth do I go?’. You will be given a set objective to complete, but the game doesn’t make it very clear on how to get there and what exactly it wants you to do.

The games combat system was awkward. It just felt clunky and uninspired. I can recall lots of times when I walked around the corner, encountered an enemy, then he shot me 3 times, and I died. It was awkward to pull out my gun and shoot back quick enough. Bear in mind, I was playing on easy, 3 shots killed me no problem. Another thing I didn’t like was the voice acting. I couldn’t work out where Kate was supposed to be from. One minute she sounded Irish, then the next American. It was awful.

Andrew’s final say: Hydrophobia was supposed to be released in 2009. Something tells me that if the game had of been released then, it would’ve been very impressive. Sadly, with the lack of direction, awkward combat system and bad voice acting, it was hard to focus on the positives like the impressive water physics. The high quality standard set by so many other downloadable games makes Hydrophobia mediocre. It doesn’t even come close to their level.

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  • Hold on!

    Some good an bad points in your review, still sounds good though But I’m pretty sure it’s a Episodic game and the first episode (even though it is split into ‘acts’ takes place on the lower parts of the ship). And the other two Episodes on the higher desks (from what I’ve read elsewhere).

  • Ouch!!! I hear so many good things about this game from older gamehounds show. I did try it out at P.A.X. with a developer as she was tell me about it and I thought it was good for a demo.