Trouble Thinking

May 14, 2010

Humble Indie Review: Aquaria

Filed under: Game Reviews — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 9:00 am

So you’ve only got one more day to make good on the sweetest possible deal in gaming, the Humble Indie Bundle. I can make a bold claim like that for two reasons. One, I’m amazing. Of course I’m bold. Two, you can pay whatever you want, down to a single insulting cent. There’s no possible way to make that a more excellent bang for your buck.

Aquaria is another game in that bundle, and it is pretty excellent.

I haven’t completed everything in the game quite yet, but thus far it consists of three things:

1.) Exploring a beautifully rendered ocean environment by solving light puzzles, usually related to singing wonderful songs or swimming to hidden groves of undersea delightfulness.

2.) Finding ingredients to cook delicious food with.

3.) Muuuurder.

The game begins with you as Naija, a lovely young mer-person who apparently becomes sentient about when the player takes control. Following an odd impulse to explore, she (and you) leave the safety of a tiny cave for the wide open seas and all the interesting things they contain. Let me be straight: this game is beautiful. It has wonderful art all over the place.  Simply swimming about is great fun.

The controls are pretty simply, point and click anywhere to swim, right click and mouse over music notes to sing songs that you can use to manipulate the environment. As you explore more, you run into areas you can’t get through for some reason or another, maybe strong currents or a rock blocking the way. Eventually, exploring the areas you can reach will grant you the ability to sing that rock away or charge through the faster waters. The further you progress in the game, the more you find out about who and what Naija is, and what exactly happened to all of the extinct civilizations littering the world. Discovering more about the world of Aquaria and the history it contains is an engaging quest that propels you ever further from familiar waters.

One of these path-opening abilities involves shooting bolts of pure destructive energy out of your hands. As you can imagine, it has certain other uses. Okay, the other uses are killing. This leads to the murder part of the game, but also the cooking. As you slow-roast various ocean life with your energy beams, you get to gather up the meat/eyes/oil that they drop and combine them to form delicious ability-improving food. The combat ability you gain also grants you access to the more dangerous places in Aquaria, and serves you well when you face off against the occasional unreasonably belligerent giant sea creature blocking your way. Combat controls are again a simple matter of point and click, with the game by default allowing all of your shots to be guided into nearby enemies.

pewpewpewpew!

Also, I feel that I should point out specifically how amazing the sound can be in Aquaria. The main character’s singing sounds lovely, the music is catchy without being distracting, and the portions involving a voice-over are well acted and affecting without being too melodramatic.

The constant unlocking of new and interesting places to explore combined with the growing power of the main character to affect the world makes Aquaria addictive and entertaining,  and the lovely environments make it completely natural to attempt to see as much of the world as possible.

I can’t recommend this game enough, especially if you get it with the Humble Indie Bundle for the low low price of whatever you feel like paying for it.

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