Published on September 29th, 2010 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Hydrophobia from Dark Energy gives claustrophobia a whole new twist. Diving into long corridors and not even sure you are going to right way, but somehow there is room to breathe. This first episode in Xbox LIVE’s Game Feast will have you planning your escape from the get go.
Katie, our main character/hero awakes to a lot of confusion and “Scoot,” our lovable Scottish accented counterpart, is already chirping like a little birdie in her ear. Chirp chirp Scoot, chirp away. Or would it be, in a Scottish accent, “Charrrrp away Scoot charrrp away!” Anyways, we then find ourselves more than knee deep in H20 and struggling to find out why the boat that is carrying the world’s future is being over run and bombarded by these Neomalthusian pirates. The Neomalthusians have brought terror to the ship, but for what purpose-we are unsure. “Save the world and kill yourself,” is quite the motto to live by. Katie is then left to swim, blast, and destroy in order to get out of this sinking haul. The Queen of the Sea might find its permanent place at the bottom and hope for mankind will be all but lost.
There are a lot of good things about the game play that do Hydrophobia some justice. Your MAVI device unlocks doors and hacks into the system to access all sorts of goodies. Weapons are not overwhelming. Just because you are not blasting away enemies with a 12-guage or tearing heads off, does not make this a poor game experience. There are plenty of ways to kill your enemies. Electrocution, explosive objects, or even explosive gel rounds take care of the bad guys before you can say “Sonic boom.” Once again, thanks Scoot for chiming in.
The controls are light and give us a not so normal scheme. Jump is Y, X is action, down on the directional pad pulls up your MAVI while Up turns on your flashlight. The RS zooms when your weapon is pulled out. LS puts you in stealth while the RB changes from weapon out/away. Swimming is done faster by pushing the A while surfacing can be made easy by holding Y. This made swimming extremely easy.
There are just a few things that could have gone much more right to prove this to be an epic-episodic adventure. There is much appreciation for creativity for Hydrophobia. It is an excellent concept and does a great job of developing an environment that delivers a genuine experience. Many times things like these are minimized by the abundance of smaller issues that become one much larger one. Even though I always hated the Super Mario water levels, I did enjoy a whole game based around this idea to an extent.
While making my way through one of the many rooms that you must scratch your brain to find out what tools you can use to get the hell out of this water filled cabin, I had a meltdown. Swimming becomes an almost expected action for Katie, especially when the title itself holds the prefix Hydro- in it. Some areas become filled with water and swimming becomes a life or death maneuver.
Making my way swiftly through another of the rooms, I noticed that there were a bunch of different “gas” tanks that were going to be in my way. While mashing and making my way out and trying to avoid these tanks I had run into one and started an unfortunate glitch/spasm. In this case, there was no coming back from the depths of this sea. Somehow Katie had become stuck inside on of the tanks only to fall victim to her own suicide. This was not the only glitch.
While trying to surface in a room where there were only a few parts to get air, I had but almost drowned when I made it to the top. Well, then Katie did drown. Although she made it to reach the surface and the red portions of the screen had diminished indicating that there was no need for a panic attack, the spasm had me at the surface but going under and not making too much sense. If all else fails blasting Neomalthusian pirates will help relieve the stress, right?
There was a time when I was thinking that this combat system was easy and responsive. To an extent it is. Switching between weapons becomes a little more fun when you have unlocked them all. This also then becomes tedious when trying to reload each to have it prepped for the next takedown. I like to have my range weapon, explosive, and general side arm. When trying to toggle the cover and efforts to fire, Katie often becomes victim to close range attacks. Fumbling to reload may leave you open to an easy attack that really does not have you armed to make a great kill. Even with all of the possible explosive capabilities in your surroundings, sometimes it’s easier just to throw in the clip.
There were times when I was simply frustrated, but at times clinging to my controller trying to escape a would be water tomb. For the price, 1200 MS points is a little steep, but if you want to see what all the fuss and phobia is about, then I guess go for the first episode.
+Level design & creativity
+/- Combat system