As Homer Simpson once imagined, life is simpler under the sea. Aquaria’s Naija lives an uncomplicated underwater life - until her consciousness is awakened by a mysterious apparition. Who is she? Where does she come from? Are there more like her out there?
And so begins the atmospheric Aquaria, a beautifully rendered 2D adventure game. Naija’s awakening comes through exploration: your journey into the deeper waters or the kelp imbues her with new powers and character states, each new skill or persona helping to break the environmental puzzles and win the regular boss battles.
Interestingly, you can choose to play entirely with the mouse. You can move and fire by dragging the pointer around Naija, while right clicking brings up a series of icons incorporating a gesture mechanism you can select states and powers from. For example: right click and swooping the mouse through three icons on the left of the circle will switch you to the first new persona: a gothic black version of Naija who can fireball enemies.
Not that this is a violent game. Things attack you and you will need to fight, but we spent most of our time sweeping Naija through underwater caverns, just enjoying the movement and rewards of exploration: every new cavern comes with an impressive background or new creature to spot. But that openness can be a hindrance too. This is a huge game, but the alien backdrop, multi-directional movement and rather unhelpful map means you will get lost. Some of the objectives aren’t particularly well thought through either: they’re of the “you’ve done this, now go all the way over here and put this in the thing” variety.
But the good far outweighs what are essentially niggles. Aquaria is a slick game from an indie development duo. You’d never tell: the art, voiceover and soundtrack are all quietly confident, with no corners being cut or excuses made for the small team.
Jan 25, 2008