All of the cute little fishies must be saved!
For some reason we, as gamers, are often charged with helping the daft survive long enough to get themselves into another life threatening situation. There are a lot of games out there that involve some sort of slightly stupid creature plodding on towards their impending doom, and it is always down to us to save them. I blame the Lemmings, bizarre creatures that have very little respect for their own lives. Since that first Lemmings game appeared, all of those years ago, there has been a steady stream of other, equally idiotic creatures that are willing to put their lives into the hands of gamers.
Aqua Panic from Eko Software, available on PSN for Â£7.99, offers something different though. In this quest to save as many creatures as you can, the creatures in question are cute little fishies. These little fishies have been swept up by a whirlwind and are about to be dumped, unceremoniously, into the mouths of waiting predators. It is not their fault, they are just going with the flow of the water. Surely that must tug on the heart strings? It is circumstance, not stupidity that has put them in this situation, so I can’t help but feel sorry for the guys. I admit it, I actually care!
Thus begins the game. At the top of the screen will be a little bubble of fishies that, once the player gives the okay, will start pouring out and flowing through the level towards the bottom. At the bottom are a number of rather hungry, bigger fish that would like nothing more than to have a snack. Luckily, there is a flagged “safe” area for the fish to land in. All you have to do is guide the flow of water to this safe area.
The player is allowed to check out the level and get the lay of the land before releasing the fishies, which is a real bonus, as the levels can be quite complex. They are then given a fixed number of tools and are challenged to save a minimum number of the helpless fish to complete the level and move on to the next.
Once the player releases the fish, they are then allowed to use the tools at their disposal in a frantic rush to save the fish from the jaws of death. Plan before hand, and you may just save enough. The tools on offer include the relatively simple bombs, that can blow a hole in certain areas of land and provide a channel through which the water can flow, the plants that can be used to create a dam of sorts and change the direction of the flowing water, and the harpoon for dispatching evil predators that actually lie in wait on the levels. So far, so simple.
However, within the space of only a few levels, things become far more complex, with the inclusion of things like valves and snails. I don’t want to spoil the fun, but suffice to say, saving the fishies rapidly becomes much more challenging.
There are 80 levels in total, with all but the beginning 10 or so being fiendishly difficult. I cannot emphasise this enough. This is the type of mind bending complexity that will have small children running from the room to tell the nearest adult about the long line of expletives that have issued from your mouth. You will not throw the controller through the TV in a fit. It is more the sort of frustration that will have you calmly go out to the garage and take a blowtorch to your PS3, in order to savour its destruction for longer.
So, have I managed to get across the fact that this game is both hard and frustrating? Still, everyone loves a challenge. The satisfaction that one feels upon clearing a particularly difficult level makes up for any and all frustration felt.
The game features some gorgeous, simple cartoon-style graphics that are certain to cheer up anyone who sets their eyes on the game. Combine this with the overly happy tunes that play through the game, of a similar style to the Loco Roco tune that will stick in your head for ages, and you have to wonder if the developers were actually trying to prepare you for the difficulty that is to come, by bathing you in joyous cuteness beforehand.
Although only a single player experience, the game does have leaderboards on which the player can compare their achievements. Alongside the adventure mode, the player will have access to a couple of other modes. Free play and the two survival modes need to be unlocked in adventure mode.
Beyond the incredibly high difficulty level, there is not much to criticise with Aqua Panic. The controls work well, which is always a concern with this style of game on consoles. The game is bright, cheerful, looks good and will keep the player busy for hours.Anyone with a passing interest in puzzle games of this style should be more than happy with this game, even if they do end up drilling the controller to the wall and declaring that fish are evil.