Our second review of the day is of one of this week’s XBLA games which goes by the name Aqua. This title is the first by developer “Games Distillery” and there’s a lot of promise here. The basic premise is that you’re in a steampunk style setting where naval warfare is king and you are a top captain in the Emperean army. The gameplay is basically that of a dual joystick shooter with a sea-ship instead of a space-ship but the level design brings it past that allowing much more than the singular combat arenas of other dual stick games.
The story is pretty good with what feels like an interesting and well realized universe behind it. An engaging cast of characters also helps to keep the story afloat. The art design is quite nice with a lot of appropriate feeling designs and the story is driven by cinematics that are presented in a sort of moving 19th century woodcut fashion which really fits in with the games aesthetic. The gameplay feels tight and there is a lot of customization you can do to your ship to make it control the way you want. The game’s length is decent with about 3 hours worth of campaign to go through which can be replayed from any point of the story you’ve played before. One of the greatest things this game does is take full advantage of the out of game rewards games the Xbox live service can give. By playing through the story you can unlock a couple of avatar awards, gamer pictures, and of course achievements. It’s nice to see a developer using avatar awards as it’s a very cool program not a lot companies are using yet and it’s use is a great way to subtly advertise your game via word of mouth.
There are some issues with this game however, most of which are very noticeable. This game features some of the worst voice acting and dialog I have ever heard in a downloadable title. Despite the fact that the story and concept are interesting and unique the dialog almost ruins it. There is also a graphical issue I ran into in which caused a lot of scan lines on the screen and at one point even caused the world geometry to go seizure-tastic for about 30 seconds. While this is an easily patched bug it would have been nice to see this dealt with by QA before release. Beyond that the only issue is a lack of online multiplayer, but there’s still local multiplayer so you can get your two player fix if you want it.
All in all this is game is a good start for a new developer and it’ll be interesting to see what comes from them in the future. The game is only $10 (800 MS points) and if you like steampunk it’s definitely a recommended title. I give it three out of five stars for its good gameplay and cool concept, a bit more polish and this game could have been sleeper hit.