Aqua Panic

Don’t Panic!

Thousands of ocean animals have been swept up, presumably by a storm of some sort, and now rest delicately in a bubble. They need to get back to their natural ocean habitat, but in between them and their home are a bunch of floating land masses and intimidating creatures. What do you do?

If this game is any indication, you use your various tools to grow plants, scare away creatures, and blow up obstacles on the way to the bottom. The fish and octopus are counting on you to guide them safely to the only safe spots in the ocean: the ones signaled by the buoys on either side and without giant chomping water creatures with unnervingly huge teeth.

This is apparently what it’s like in the midst of an Aqua Panic!, the latest game by developers Eco, now available on the Playstation Network. At $10, Aqua Panic!’s concept seems intriguing enough. Rather than simply leading creatures directly, or even allowing them to determine their own course in reaction to our manipulation, they are at the whim of the water in which they are encased. As water pours out of their bubble, the fish flow out along with it. The narrowness of corridors and the degree to which water builds up determines the difference between these fish arriving home in one piece or coming face to face with a much-too-big version of themselves.

The water mechanics alone have the potential to be an engrossing part of an otherwise simplistic puzzle game. Shouldn’t it be fun to direct the flow of water, and to explore the different ways in which the water responds to your input? Unfortunately this game, which is based primarily around the concept of water manipulation, suffers greatly when it comes to portraying this element in an interesting way. The water, and the creatures within it, feel quite binary within the play-field, and the whole game feels more and more stiff as a result.

Even the various tools feel both defective and unsatisfying. Blowing up a segment of land simply pokes a whole in the scenery, and the water often reacts by flowing through a small amount of leftover land that simply shouldn’t be there, nor allow water to pass through it. Placing plants always results in a single tree, and it begins to feel like just placing an arbitrary boundary.

Despite all of this, the puzzles within this game are relatively solid, and adequately forgiving considering the amount of frustration that can often result from a less than accurate tool set. The puzzle game addict will find the game interesting enough, and for those who do find the game to be entertaining, they will be at it for a long while before they run out of content. Still, for the average gamer, it’s probably best to leave those fish floating harmlessly in their water-filled bubbles. They’ll be fine. Trust me.

Review copy provided by publisher.