Thursday, 13 December 2012

Splishy Splishy Splash Splash - A Lovely Game About Swimming

What a pleasure it was for my next game, a little indie effort named Aquaria (humble bundle strikes again I think) to see it make such a stark contrast to the previous title in my collection, which failed pretty hard to take my affections out and buy them dinner. Where the opening of that game made me want to just be done with it, Aquaria does a hell of a lot of things right from the off, which makes me wonder why I've only ever spent about 5 minutes with it before. But hey, that's what this blog is for right?

From the outset, by use of nice graphics, lovely music, and an utterly barmy introduction sequence, Aquaria seems out to impress me. Options in the opening menu sparkle and shine, even the title graphic above this post looks nice and blue and watery. There seems to be a real 'Pop-Cap'py' feel to everything, where simple 2D graphics are splattered with sparkles and twinkles and lovely sounds. It urges me to play and get stuck in, which I hastily undergo.

Something is happening here. I have no idea what.

The intro sequence is utterly barm cakes. From what I gather, you're a child in a floaty castle thing in the sky which gets peppered by deadly meteorites which crash your rocky island fort into the sea, upon which you awake (as the same character?) as a mermaid type creature. After some swimming about, there's a weird cloaked woman who gives you a glimpse into the playable (and very hectic) future and you're off into the deeps. Its nuts, makes no sense, yet raises a few eyebrows and suggests there's a little mystery under the surface.

I bet she gets all the movie channels on them things.

Swimming around is quite nice as you float around the corals and fish looking for what to do next. Although I don't think it's quite as lovely as the game thinks, it's pretty relaxing, and coupled with the dreamy music it gives the whole affair a very tranquil and sleepy feel to it. Objects sparkle and hum when you pass them, and aquatic life spins around as you traverse the maze. Which is where my first hiccup surfaced.

I hate mazes in games. Being lost and trying to find my way out of somewhere designed to make me disorientated is not my idea of fun, and especially when I'm provided with a very poor map. It functions, but requires constant flipping to the large map to get your bearings, with the mini map being almost entirely useless.

This makes things trickier in the early stages I'm in now, as it appears everything is semi-sandbox in nature as it presents you with a series of impassable obstacles, and you have to explore and reveal the solutions. There are no quest markers in particular, and you basically have to just swim around and wait until you stumble across the solutions, and with a particularly odd early puzzle, things get a teeny bit confusing.

The problem isn't so much the puzzles, as it is the distance between them. Swimming around, when you don't really have a destination in mind becomes a little slow and tedious. A minor quibble, but I can imagine it turning you off in the opening stages, and although I usually hate bread crumbing and hand holding, a few little hints would have been appreciated in this early section.

The fearsome 'Thingy'! I escaped with my fins intact, but only just. I shall call her, MICHELLE! (naturally)

However, I am quite enjoying this so far. I narrowly avoided another brief write up by getting chomped on by...a...thing of some kind after the relaxed nature of the game led me into a false sense of safety. More alert and nimble flippered I delveddeeper into a game that so far, I'm really quite enjoying. Next up, crafting, singing and dodging the big, nasty, thingy which nearly killed me!

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