|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Dark Energy Digital|
|Pub: Dark Energy Digital|
|Release: November 16, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p|
Further complicating matters is Kate's handheld MAVI system, which allows her to scan for encrypted codes hidden on the walls of the ship (think Arkham Asylum and you've got the idea). Part of the patch scaled down Hydrophobia's tutorials, but with MAVI doing so is actually a detriment. Kate often comes across locked doors that can only be bypassed with said encryption codes, but with the "improved" tutorial system, which only briefly displays instructions on how to use new gameplay systems such as MAVI, it's not clear at first when to use them. Only after wandering around in a few different scenarios when the waypoints weren't helping did I finally get the hang of pulling out MAVI when all else failed. Compared to the rest of the navigational problems, MAVI is of little consequence (it's a bit underused anyway), but it's still worth mentioning.
Combat is also a bit underused, although in Hydrophobia's case, this is actually a good thing. To take on your terrorist opposition, you're given what basically amounts to a charge-up stun gun. Sure, there are other types of bullets that, say, make the gun fire as a semi-auto or function as a timed-mine launcher, but ammo is so rare it's practically negligible. And while you're encouraged to use your limited firepower in conjunction with the environment, blowing out electrical circuits to fry your foes or just stunning them until they drown, these kinds of actions are so glossed over you'll probably forget all about them. As it stands, I spent the entire game stunning baddies until they died, which thankfully the developers actually chose to allow. In any case, the enemies are either too stupid or too committed to their work to, I don't know, try to swim to the surface in a flooded room, making for a serious gap in logic. Given that enemies often appear from the proverbial ether, as well, I would almost rather Hydrophobia didn't have combat at all.
And the piece de resistance? Kate's hydro powers, which basically make her the room temperature equivalent of Iceman, aren't even in the game. It's really cool to suddenly have control over water in a room, but for some reason the developers decided to leave this kind of gameplay out entirely—except in a challenge room that's only unlockable after you beat the main story mode. I'm not sure which is worse: that Dark Energy Digital made such a glaring omission or that Hydrophobia has probably the most abysmally abrupt ending I've ever seen in a video game. Although it was originally supposed to be taken as a cliffhanger leading into a second game (this was the first of a planned trilogy), the critical reception of this installment makes it seem unlikely that we'll see the remaining games in the series any time soon.
While the game's patch makes most of its constituent parts perform competently, Hydrophobia is still far from a passable game. Glitches and bugs are relatively uncommon, but between the navigational problems and uninspired gameplay, it just isn't very enjoyable. Being a huge fan of adventure games, and based on the quality of the HydroEngine, I really wanted to like this one more. But as it stands, you'd probably have more fun swimming in your local reservoir than playing this.
CCC Freelance Writer