Hydrophobia recently hit Xbox Live Arcade as the first title in the “Game Feast” promotion that Microsoft is currently running. As soon as you launch the game you will immediately see that Hydrophobia is definitely one of the best looking XBLA titles that has ever been released. Dark Energy Digital did an amazing job in that aspect. Hydrophobia takes place aboard the “Queen of the World” which is the largest ship ever built, a city at sea. The “Queen of the World” is celebrating its tenth anniversary by throwing the party of the century. It is here where Nanocell is going to make a big announcement that will affect everyone. Unfortunately they never get to that point as the ship is attacked and you are left struggling to survive. You assume the role of Kate Wilson who is a systems engineer aboard the “Queen of the World”. After the attack begins you find yourself on one of the lower decks of the ship and you need to find your way back up to the upper decks so that you can escape. Unfortunately all of the escape routes have been blocked, except for the ones that the attackers have left open for their own purposes. Kate is by no means a solider which means that as you progress through the game you will have to find different ways to take out enemy combatants. There are gas tanks strewn around the environment and if you see some enemies standing near one you can use that to your advantage. You can also flood the room by shooting a glass wall and watch as your enemies get taken away in the current. You can also dispose of your enemies remotely by using your MAVI device. Using this device will allow you to tap into the security camera feed for the area and once you are in control of the feed you can remotely open doors to flood a particular room. This will allow you to take out enemies before they even know you are there or, at the very least, distracts them so you can easily take them out another way. You will also need to use the MAVI to scan the area for clues on how to decrypt doors that are locked and different things of that nature too.
All of this makes the game sound really cool and, for the most part, it is. Unfortunately it does have its share of issues preventing it from becoming a “must buy” title. For starters, Hydrophobia features a really awkward control scheme. When I first started out I thought the controls were way too sensitive and it hampered what I was able to do. There were time when even after I took my jump off of the analog stick where my character would take an extra step or two and that can mean the difference between life and death if you are walking along a narrow path or you are trying to climb up to higher ground. It will take you a little while to get used to the controls and the camera doesn’t do you any favors. There were times where I was hanging from a pole and I need to make a jump to the next platform. I would have to fight the camera to get the proper perspective on the jump and even then it didn’t always work. What this essentially resulted in was me having to take a blind leap of faith and hope my character safely lands where I want her to. Hydrophobia does feature a cover system when you have your gun drawn, however, it doesn’t always work the way it should. There were quite a few times when I quickly tried to take cover during a firefight or before an enemy even saw me and the game wouldn’t do it. In order to take cover you have to wait for the button prompt to appear and to make that happen you have to be perfectly lined up with the cover you want to utilize as cover. As everyone knows, when you are in the heat of battle you don’t always have time to line up something perfectly. Being able to dive into cover at any given moment is essential and you can’t really do that here.
Going through the game you will come across different mini games such as hacking a system or trying to locate a cipher so that you can decrypt a door and move on to the next section. There are also different types of ammunition that you will find as you progress throughout the game and you will want to experiment with what ammunition works best for you in different situations. There are also journals strewn throughout the environment for you to find that will give you some back story on the game as well as various items. You can also earn medals by completing various objectives which will tie into some achievements.
Overall Hydrophobia is one of the best looking XBLA games that has been released on the system. That said it does have its share of issues that are hopefully ironed out if the game ever sees a sequel. I enjoyed my time with the title even though were there some parts that were a bit frustrating. In the future if they could lock down a more intuitive control scheme, as well as make it tighter, then they could have a winning formula on their hands. I am curious to see this studio’s next project as it looks like they have a pretty amazing engine and they could do a lot with it. Be sure to download the demo and give this game a try. If you can get past the issues I have outlined above then you should enjoy Hydrophobia.
Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network