For those of you old enough to remember Lemmings, Aqua Panic! will bring back fond memories. For those of you that don’t, you should know that Aqua Panic! tasks you with the objective of safely guiding one-hundred hapless fish (per level) from the top of the screen to the bottom, while avoiding various predators along the way, and ensuring that the fish end up in a safe area marked by two flags upon their return to the ocean. Developed by Bulkypix and Eko Software, Aqua Panic! was originally released for Nintendo DS and PSP earlier in the year, and has now found its way to the iOS devices, including the iPad.
A Lot Of Heart and Sole - The first thing that struck me when I began playing this game was the art design. Colourful and Cheerful, Aqua Panic! is one of the brighter games I have played in a while. In a gaming environment dominated by greys and browns, any game that makes an effort to use a varied colour palate gains a thumbs-up from me. In a game such as this, where decisions have to be made on the fly, and enemies have to be avoided at all costs, it’s important to be able to quickly determine friend from foe. Aqua Panic! has clear and crisp visuals. A quick glance at the screen tells you all that you need to know about your fishes’ route.
Developers Weren’t Shellfish With Content - Aqua Panic! presents players with over 80 levels of well designed and challenging gameplay. The levels are spread over five different worlds, encompassing the four seasons, and the final arena called Inferno. Every level includes Bronze, Silver and Gold medals that need to be collected. Each medal collected increases your score for the level. Alongside this, the game progresses along a well designed difficulty curve, introducing the various tools designed to aid your fish at a leisurely pace, and allowing the player time to become accustomed to their uses, before introducing the next tool and ramping up the difficulty.
THIS MAKES ME CRABBY
Floundering Controls - For the first while that I played Aqua Panic!, I was praising the developers (in my head) for attempting to use a intuitive control system for their game. As the levels are too big to fit on a single screen, you need to be able to scroll up and down the levels, as well as moving your target crosshair and using various tools. To combat this, the developer made it so that the use of one finger can move the target around the screen that is presented at the current time, and two fingers, in a drag movement, can scroll through the level. Tools are used by double-tapping the screen, but you have to drag the crosshair over where you want the tool to be used. For the first few levels, while the pace is leisurely, the controls work well, but as soon as the intensity ramps up, cracks start to appear. The game has difficulty determining between one and two finger swipes, oftentimes leaving you scrolling across the other side of a level when you attempt to use a tool, while the row of sharks at the bottom of the level happily chomp on your fish.
I Swear I Keep Herring The Same Things Over and Over - Aqua Panic!, for all its initial novelty, gets repetitive quickly. Even with the different tools that you can use, each level more often than not plays out in the same way as the one that preceded it, with you having to make sure that different pools of fish don’t overflow, while still making sure that there is a steady stream falling to the bottom of the level. In fairness, excluding the controls, Aqua Panic! does its job well, but familiarity breeds contempt, and even with the ramp up in difficulty towards the end, I found overcoming lethargy more of an obstacle than the levels themselves.
Aqua Panic! gave me an excellent first impression. Initially, I was wowed by the bright visuals and seemingly intuitive control system, however, the longer I played the game, the less impressed I became. Whilst it is a solid effort, the problems presented by the game really took the shine off in my eyes. If you were a fan of Lemmings, or simply can’t resist a game where you save cute little fishies, then give Aqua Panic! a go. Otherwise, approach it with some trepidation, but if you can get past the control issues, there is a decent amount of gaming to be had here.
- Jack Moulder
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