Aquaria, an oceanic adventure developed by Bit Blot and published by Semi Secret Software, is now available from the app store. An iPad-only offering, you’ll lead main character Naija through a variety of environments in an effort to unlock her mysterious story.
- Beautiful underwater graphics encompassing huge colorful world
- Immersive and atmospheric soundtrack
- Intuitive and responsive touch controls and fun song creation abilities that affect gameplay
- Achievement system via GameCenter
- Easy to get disoriented and find yourself unsure of what to do next
- Can get a bit repetitive
- Some crashing issues
The story begins with a visual representation of a world above water suddenly ravaged by a meteor shower that has evidently caused a great deal of damage and left people screaming in the streets. Following this, an aquatic woman describes the intertwining of consciousnesses between individuals, along with cryptic messages pertaining to The Verse. Suddenly, we are plunged into the deep, controlling a young lass who looks like a fairy. She moves fluidly about her world by following your finger as you move it around the screen, boosting her speed the farther you touch from her. She also spins, flourishes, and boosts off of environmental objects using gestures, and sings tunes that can impact the environment and those in it, as well. Unique patterns of notes bring about varying results, and you are in control of the tunes. Touching Naija brings up a circle of 8 notes, with songs created by dragging your finger from one note to another. Learning how these song notes affect the creatures and environment is a major key to discovering the secrets within.
Gameplay is predicated on exploration, swimming to and fro through grottos, caverns, and other underwater locales. You’ll encounter puzzles and enemies that require trial-and-error to unlock their purpose, your responses, and the proper method of progressing through. There are definitely times that you’ll get stuck in a situation where it is unclear what you are supposed to do. Whereas some games give you a few moments to discover the solution before basically spelling it out for you, Aquaria takes a more subtle approach, creating beacons on your map that may help you find just the thing you need to move on. Powers are unlocked one by one, often building upon previous powers to create a specific pacing within the world. The game seems to strike a nice balance, as puzzles are never too easy nor are they exceedingly difficult. Food creation works like songs do, as Naija discovers recipes for items found within the game. Creating a recipe by combining specific ingredients gives Naija special abilities like temporary speed increases. Pets also play a role in Naija’s life, creating an effect on her when used. Treasures can also be collected and some can be used to affect gameplay.
The graphics are really beautiful, employing a cool color palette to replicate the coolness of the water. Colorful flowers and other undersea objects add a visual splash that gives the world a great deal of appeal. The absence of virtual pads and buttons allows the gamer to enjoy the experience unmarred by distractions. A mini-map in the upper right corner aids in orienting yourself to your surroundings and even finding a pathway out of your current location. A small button attached to the map gives quick access to songs, recipes, pets, and treasures. The audio is immersive and atmospheric, joining haunting melodies to the mysterious gameplay in symbiotic fashion. Controls are touch-based, exhibiting good responsiveness while providing a fairly intuitive way to interact with the game. The singing mechanic is fun, visually unique, and simple to use. Moving around is easy, and the absence of a joypad for movement is never an issue. Double-tapping certain objects will allow you to interact and even save your progress. There are plenty of save spots, so feel free to save often. Double-tapping the mini-map accesses the world map, showing you areas you haven’t searched and allowing you to set way points.
Replay value is good, provided you enjoyed the first playthrough. With a big focus on exploration, it’s likely you haven’t discovered all there is to see and learn on your initial attempt, so subsequent playthroughs may offer some new content. GameCenter integration allows for more than 2 dozen achievements to earn. At $4.99, Aquaria is a 4-Dimple adventure teeming with intrigue and style.