February 21, 2009

Water, water, water.

So, for the lovely day of Valentine’s, Brer got me a copy of Aquaria on Steam. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s an indie game in the Metroidvania style that takes place under the water! Crazy water! I’m a fan of the Metroidvania style of gaming, so I had always meant to try it, and suddenly I had a good reason to. So I did.

Man, where to start?

Well, first off, this game is painfully pretentious. Your main character gives little snippets of story every once and awhile through these voice-overs, and they just make you wince, not because they’re so bad, but because they think they’re so completely important. It’s almost like the text in Braid, except Braid’s text gives off the impression its actually about something, and you can ignore it. Still, the voice-overs are very rare, so it’s not a big deal, But it’s worth mentioning.

Secondly, the controls. The developer went above and beyond the call of duty to make a just-mouse control scheme work. It works pretty well, too, for the most part! The moment I plugged my 360 controller in, though, the game controlled just exactly how I wanted, so I used that the whole time. It made aiming difficult, though.

There is a lot of aiming, too. It’s weird, the game starts off being about a mermaid who can sing. The voice-overs and the pretty visuals really kind of suggest that this is going to be a very relaxing little indie game of exploration or something, you know? Then you get the ability to throw fireballs and suddenly there are constantly enemies swarming you and it starts to feel more like a two-stick shooter. It’s kinda strange how quickly it gets hectic!

Still, the game is pretty darn solid. Moving works right, it has a nice little magic system and a big world to explore. My main problem is how little guidance you get. Most Metroidvanias either let you know where you’re supposed to be getting to, or have you smartly funneled down certain paths by using barriers that can only be surpassed using things you get by going the right way. Aquaria does a little of that, but not very much. You just kind of have this whole big ocean cave world to wander through, and no direction.
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s not having direction in a game when I want it. Ugh. Add that to the fact that the game is pretty difficult, and you can head the wrong way and immediately get slaughtered, or do a bunch of exploring, die, and lose all of your map progress. Normally, I would be thankful to fix this kind of thing by heading to GameFAQs and pulling up all the maps and FAQs I need, but there aren’t any! It shocked me. How could there not be a guide for a vidjeo game? But there isn’t. At least last I checked.

And that’s kind of where I ended with the game, at least for now. I was frustrated not knowing where to go, and so I turned to other things. Still, if you are someone who likes wandering around and things in games, this is pretty damn well made. I’m just not that kind of gamer, I guess. Maybe someday someone will make a very elaborate map and I’ll get to finish it.

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