Not to be mistaken for last week’s AquaNox, Aquaria is a whole different beast. A beautiful beast, which doesn’t talk much, but when it does, it soothes rather than annoys.
The game’s a side-scrolling action-adventure game in which you control Naija, a fairy/siren/mermaid… lady thing with the gift of the Verse, a magical power that allows her to use her singing voice to do various things, like create a shield or move big rocks. Naija can’t directly affect her surroundings, but can use her singing to influence what happens around her, singing a certain note to break open color-coded eggs that give her various items. The game’s got a large emphasis on both puzzle-solving and exploration, allowing you to go in a non-linear path to progress through the game. To aid in this quest, you get story quips as you go, meeting with various ephemere characters that give you flashbacks and vignettes. I don’t know what happens later on, as I’ve only played for a short time, but it’s intriguing.
First thing that may hit your face as you enter the game is the beautiful art-style – everything looks hand-painted and is beautifully detailed to give you a feeling of awe in the pure natural beauty of the underwater environment. Despite Naija generally being small on your screen, you can still see details like her blinking or opening her mouth when she’s singing, not to mention the smooth flowing animations in both her and the other characters around her. The music adds to the atmosphere, as well as to the fact that one of the main gameplay mechanics is singing, both of which are rendered with a beautiful voice, which is also used for the introspective monologues that Naija puts out.
Early on in the game you unlock the ability to change into your Energy Form, which takes away your ability to sing in order to give you a more directly aggressive way of interacting with whatever wants to hurt you (and whatever doesn’t want to hurt you), by allowing you to shoot fiery projectiles which home into your enemies or charge up to blow up in multiple projectiles. The game then turns combat-oriented when the situation demands it, still going back to the more puzzle solving way as the needs change.
Might just be because I’m early on in the game, but I don’t see any good reason for the addition of the cooking/crafting thing. EDIT: The feature has been added after the game has been simplified from the original idea of a complex text-based RPG’s styling. Again, it may feel a bit tacked on because I haven’t gone through much of the game.
Aquaria is designed around using just the mouse to play, working well in that regard, although I’d say it feels quite a bit better to play on a gamepad. Of course, it’s subjective, so choose which one you will and play it.
The game’s available on Steam for 10 Euros. Despite being a 2007 title, it looks wonderful and plays just as well. I recommend it.