Aquaria is a 2D action adventure game developed by Blit Blot. Originally released in December 2007 for Windows and has since been ported to a variety of platforms.
Price: £6.99 / €9.99 / $9.99
Essentially Aquaria is a side-scrolling adventure game starring Naija who has set out to explore the massive underwater world she inhabits. It definitely takes inspiration from old 2D adventure game, providing plenty of exploration, story and combat.
One of the main themes of the game is exploration and you will be doing a lot of it. The different sections you travel through feel huge and provide plenty to discover. To progress through these sections you’ll have to acquire news forms, abilities and items. The exploration never feels boring though thanks to the sense of achievement you get from finding new characters and treasure. The game also requires backtracking to gain entry into previously hidden areas in a way that is reminiscent of Castlevania.
Of course the game isn’t all about swimming around searching. You also have to solve musical puzzles by singing. Naija’s singing ability is important through the game, either when completing these puzzles by clicking the appropriate color for each note or using it to change your form. These different forms allow you to shoot projectiles, swim faster or give off light in dark areas. Combat can be challenging, you are forced to find a balance between attacking and dodging attacks. The enemies are never too hard but there is a large variety of enemies to encounter. Boss fights also require some patience as rushing into danger will more often than not lead to unwanted consequences.
Meanwhile the story slowly unfolds in the background while you continue on your journey. The pacing of Aquaria is slow but works incredibly well at setting up suspense. Surprises can be dramatic and you will certainly appreciate how story elements are presented throughout. Backtracking and exploration also enhance the experience by allowing for open ended objectives.
The presentation is very satisfying. Landscapes and sprites look superb and the graphics are for the most part very polished. The art design fits the game perfectly and hasn’t aged badly since its original release. As does the musical score that accompanies it. The soundtrack aids the plot in building up the tension where appropriate and provides a very fitting atmosphere for the different areas.
Aquaria is not without its limitations however. The map system is severely limited by the fact that it only shows the area you are in. Other areas are greyed out making it difficult to see exactly where you have been. This can cause some problems in a game that requires backtracking to areas you have already been to. Some of the action can also seem tricky when using the mouse, but the game makes up for this by allowing an Xbox controller to be used relatively easily.
Overall the game provides a very enjoyable, if challenging, experience. It is great value for money and will provide a rewarding story to anyone who plays it. If 2D adventure games are your thing then you have to try Aquaria.