Puzzle Your Way to the
Depths of the Sea!
So far, the DSiWare service seems to be a little sparse. With only a handful of launch titles, DSi enthusiasts quick to try out the new download service (as well as spend the 1000 free points that came with the system) may feel that their options are a little limited. However, before you write off the DSiWare service completely, you may want to check out Art Style: AQUIA.
If you are into puzzle games the likes of Hexic and Tetris, than this title may be the best option on the budding download service. That is, of course, if you don’t mind some severe headaches.
The main puzzle mechanic in AQUIA is quite interesting and involves a very tall Jenga-like tower of blocks. This tower is three blocks wide, and your main goal is to form groups of three or more like-colors, either horizontally or vertically (or in the case of advanced players, both). You can do this by inserting a dual-colored block on the left or right of the column. However, the twist here is that when you insert a block on either side, the blocks on the other side are pushed out. Although this sounds simple enough, the mechanic can get increasingly complex, and you’ll really have to focus in order to manage the ever-shifting block structure.
But, the changing blocks are not your only worry. The blocks you are clearing by matching are somehow tied to a little diver avatar on the right side of the screen. As you clear blocks, the diver will make his way down to a star-shaped goal on the bottom of the screen. However, your little guy only has a limited supply of air. As his oxygen starts running low, the top of your screen will begin to darken. This darkness obscures your view of the colored blocks at the top, and slowly makes its way downward, until you can’t see your bricks at all (and your diver subsequently expires). Although the darkness will start happening after a few minutes into each round, specialty “air blocks” can be discovered to give your little scuba guy some extra time.
The timing mechanic is really where most of my frustration with this title comes from. Although the block-switching works well, it requires some intense concentration and problem-solving skills. The timed mechanic really hinders some of the more thoughtful aspects of the game. Instead of thinking out long-chained combos that could net me some serious points, I found myself just randomly inserting blocks when time started running out in the hopes that something miraculous would happen and my little diver wouldn’t kick the big chum bucket.
There are two main modes in Art Style: AQUIA: Timed Dive mode and Free Dive mode. Timed Dive is a little bit more rigid, as you might imagine, and gives you a set goal in which you must see your diver safely to the bottom of the ocean. The Free Dive mode is a little bit less restrictive, although the darkness will set in just as fast as in mode. The difference here is that if you can find enough air blocks, you can keep going marathon-style and rack up some serious points.
In addition to these two modes, there is also an Aquarium collection area where you can look at different sea life animation that you’ve unlocked after clearing each level. This trophy system may be a little shallow, but it does challenge you to complete some of the more complex levels in the hopes of accumulating hardware.
AQUIA’s control scheme is very simple, and it will be quite familiar to puzzle enthusiasts. You move your little bricks up and down using the D-pad and can rotate the brick by using either the Y, X, or shoulder button. This control configuration is more than a little reminiscent of Tetris, which is a good thing, as it makes the game immediately easy to control and familiar to puzzle game fans.
The sound in Art Style: AQUIA is a little bit disappointing. Although each level starts out with nice, simplistic tunes that are pleasant to listen to, when your time starts running out, this blaring, almost siren-like tone starts playing. Instead of motivating me to work faster or find a really creative solution, this noise simply motivated me to turn the sound down instead.
Visuals in AQUIA are very simplistic but effective, overall. The game has a very strong color palette filled with deep blues, blacks, and purples. It may remind you of a terrible bruise, but the color scheme is very engaging and gives this title a unique feel. Although, I have discovered that playing at low light for any extended period of time can really put a strain on your eyes, so make sure you play this one in a well-lit area!
Although the concept and gameplay in AQUIA is quite simple, I found the game to be very challenging, despite some of its shortcomings. There may be only two modes, but the block-shifting mechanic keeps the gameplay fresh, and I found myself wanting to come back to this title more than a few times. If you are a puzzle fan, AQUIA is a great deal at only 500 points, and even though the timing mechanic can be maddening (not to mention headache-inducing), I found the overall experience to be quite rewarding. Art Style: AQUIA is a challenging puzzler and, as such, is certainly not for the faint of heart. But, if you are up for the test, than this title is definitely worth checking out!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.1 Graphics
Graphics are very simplistic. Although the blue, black, white, and purple color scheme is certainly stylistic, it can be a strain to look at if you are playing marathon-style. 4.8 Control
The controls feel very familiar and recall other puzzle standards like Tetris, which is a good thing in this case. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The light music is nice at first, but the “danger” music starts way too early and can really make your head hurt. 3.5
AQUIA is a very simple puzzler, and the two modes included with the game don’t offer much variety. Still, for five hundred DSi points, it is a pretty good deal.
3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.