Game Review: Aqua Panic
Release: October 29, 2010
Developer: Eko Software
Available Platforms: PSN (previously released on PSP, NDS and Wii)
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Website: Aqua Panic
For those among you who love games designed to make your brain explode (such as Echochrome, Lemmings, and to some extent Angry Birds), here comes Eko Software’s latest creation: Aqua Panic!, which puts you on a mission to take as many fishes as possible, back to the ocean. Your goal is no easy task, of course, as you’ll have to deal with predators, valves, and the terrain itself.
The game’s premise is quite simple. Once you start a level, a flow of water containing 100 fishes will start spreading from a bubble, and you’ll have to use a series of tools to channel the liquid all the way to a safe spot. There are also a number of coins in every level that will increase the difficulty and grant you in-game money to spend on more tools to get perfect scores. Aqua Panic! starts off easy enough, giving you adequate explanations of the tools you dispose of and how to use them properly. Once the early tutorial-ish levels end, you’re in for a challenge. The game boasts a whooping 80 levels, each significantly more difficult than the one before it.
Your tools include plants (to stop the flow), missiles (to modify the terrain), and harpoons (to kill predators), among others. You’ll usually have very limited amount of accessories, which will force you to give a lot of thought to the situation at hand. In the extremely probable event that you fail a certain level, you’ll have a restart command available at all times (activated by the Select button). This is a great (and necessary) addition to the overall gameplay, given the trial and error nature of the game.
Unfortunately, the actual gameplay has some important flaws. In the later levels you have to be very precise to deploy your tools effectively, in terms of both time and accuracy, and the controls certainly fail to deliver the level of refinement required. This means that, more often than not, you’ll end up putting plants on the wrong places, or wasting a missile because you used it a mere inch away from where you should have fired it, hence making such attempt futile. Of course, once you fail, it’s just a matter of pressing the Select button to start over, and given the short nature of the levels, this isn’t really a deal breaker, but it’s still an issue; one that will surely increase the level of frustration of most players.
In terms of graphics, the game is pretty cute. The illustrations are pretty well done, albeit kiddy, and the whole art direction is appropriate. However, you would expect a game with such focus on water to have some sophisticated physics and effects, but this is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, the water behaves just fine, but sometimes it moves erratically, generating some weird behavior that often costs you some fishes. Also, the looks of the water are, for the most part, bland.
Personally, I found the music to be funny, especially at the beginning. It does, however, get pretty annoying after a couple of hours of gameplay. Thankfully, the game features background music, so you can listen to whatever you want while figuring out how to save those fishes. It’s worth noting this a great addition most developers just don’t implement.
Besides the main Adventure mode, you’ll also be able to enjoy Free Play and Survival. In Free Play you’ll have the option to choose any of the 80 levels (as soon as they’re unlocked) in order to get the maximum score possible. This is where the in-game money comes to play, as you can buy additional tools to help you finish by saving all the 100 fishes. On the other hand, Survival is a competitive mode for up to 2 players where there’s a certain number of fishes to save, and whoever saves the most, wins.
Aqua Panic! really surprised me in the good way. It’s a low budget title with very good looks and addictive gameplay. It tends to get a little frustrating from time to time, either because of the sometimes unforgiving difficulty or because of the somehow troublesome controls. Still, this is a great game, at a great price, with a nice amount of content and charm.