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Review: Aqua Panic Deluxe

This review was originally published December 31, 2010, and is republished here for your convenience.

Released on December 1st of this year, Aqua Panic for the iPhone and iPad provides a hit console title for those on the go. Yes, you could still carry around your PSP for whenever you want to load up this title, but the iPhone and iPad version offer features and services that the console version isn’t capable of. But does this mean that Aqua Panic is a better fit for Apple products? The answer to that isn’t really that simple.

In the Deluxe edition, you are tasked to save 8000 fishy friends in over 80 levels that span across five different worlds. As you progress through the levels, the difficulty increases, and you get more tools to use to guide the fish to safety. But each level offers many traps in the ways of sleeping sharks, ravenous seagulls, skating penguins, and huge moray eels. The game has the same aim as the one for both the Nintendo and Sony consoles, just with touch screen control. How did the fish get into these unlucky situations? A violent tropical storm uprooted them from their cozy home, placing them in very dangerous spots. It is then your job to plant trees, blow up pathways with bombs, and use missiles to get rid of lurking enemies so that the fish may make their way to the target area.

Everything is physics based and you have to use the flow of water to get them back into the ocean. Using the flow of water, you’ll try to direct it using bombs to blow holes, grow flowers to redirect the water, and eventually you will even use water to hit switches and a warp to transport the fish to another part of the level.The target area ranges from large to small areas, and any fish that don’t make it into the target get eaten by sharks. Each level provides different puzzles and has a minimum amount of fish you have to save in order to progress to the next level. Because it’s all physics based, even when playing the same level over again, you might not have the same outcome every time. Some of the levels will also have more than one way to get the fish back to the ocean, adding a little to the replayability.

At the beginning of each world theme, you are given a short cartoon showing the fishes’ current predicament. The graphics are not very realistic; instead they are cartoonish. This fits the game perfectly, I believe: from the colorful fish themselves to 3Dish plots of land on which the fish traverse as they make their way to the ocean below. Only one complaint really stands out about it; on the iPhone and iPod Touches, the game is too cluttered for the small screens. For example, when you start the level, there will be occasions were you’ll need to scroll down the level to place a plant or such, disrupting the flow of the game.

Which brings me to how well the controls work. The controls are easy to understand. You use a combination of taps, double taps, and sliding to make your way through a level. There will be times when you’re trying to move the cursor to one spot, only to instead have a tool wasted because the controls don’t recognize a tap or swipe from a double tap. Overall, you will spend some time trying to get the hang of how to move your cursor to manipulate the level in order to save as many fish as needed in order to move on to the next level. Even with all that time spent, there will be occasions where you’ll have to restart a level.

The game has no music to grace your ears as you scramble to save the aquatic life, but you are treated to some sound effects. You have the sounds of flowing water and cheerful fish as they make their way down the level. But even the enemies make some noise such as the snoring sharks. Who knew sharks snored? As with the majority of games I’ve played, it wasn’t long before I turned the volume down in favor of something else. I would have loved for a tropical beat, or even the little catchy tune from the beginning video, to provide a backdrop for the game.

The difficulty curve in Aqua Panic ramps up at a very quick pace. This is thanks to the additions of many new tools and the 80 levels. There are moments where you will have to restart a level, but this is mainly when the game mistakes your trying to move the cursor for wanting to activate the currently selected tool. Another issue is that while the cursor does follow the movement of your touch, when you scroll from the top to the bottom (or really any part of the level), the cursor remains in the last position it was in. This can prove to cause you to waste that valuable time needed to rescue the fish.

While I cannot really compare this version to the ones available on the major consoles, I can say that I feel that it does hold its own as an iPhone app. If you’re on the go a lot and really enjoy playing Aqua Panic, then this game is worth owning. Personally, I could not get too into the title, and I really don’t fault the game for it. Yes, there were a few things that turned me off: lack of music and controls not responding the way you want them to. Regardless, I can see picking this title up and playing it off and on in the future, especially if the controls are tweaked and music is added.

Aqua Panic Deluxe
Platform: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 12/01/2010
Developer: BulkyPix
Publisher: BulkyPix
ESRB Rating: 4+
MSRP: $0.99


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