Well, Aqua Aqua
had something going for it before I even booted the game. I thoroughly enjoyed both the N64 and Dreamcast versions of the game, and I was looking forward to the PS2 version. With a wholly different theme and even a name change, I figured that there would be some major changes to the game structure.
And while there are a few tweaks, in the end Aqua Aqua is basically the same game that I played a few years back on my Nintendo 64, with a few additions -- some positive and some negative. And while there's a lot of fun to be had here, fighting the camera and controls often makes it not worth the effort.
For those not in the know, Aqua Aqua and its Wetrix predecessors pit you against an array of falling objects. That may not seem new at all, but what the falling objects do is quite unique. You're given a large, flat area of land to build on. The beginning blocks are all Uppers, in various shapes and sizes. These raise the sections of land that they hit. Soon, Downers will start to appear, which lower land in similar shapes and sizes. And then the water comes. The idea is to leak out as little water as possible, gaining a high score at the same time. The water in Aqua Aqua behaves realistically -- it sloshes around, pours out of holes, and generally makes a big mess. So at the beginning of the game there's a rush to make a border around the level.
Of course, that would be too easy, so there are quite a few crimps in the procedure. Bombs occasionally drop, which make holes in the landscape. An attempt to put a bomb in such a hole results in much nastiness -- so don't do it. And if you build too much without lowering the land, you get an Earthquake, which can pretty much put you out of the game.
That's all well and good, but how does the game play? Well, it takes a few games to get used to -- more than your standard puzzler -- but once you've got the concept down, playing is simple enough. The scoring system, on the other hand, is complex enough to give anyone fits, and I doubt anyone really knows all of its nuances. You can rack up high scores quite simply, though, given enough time and practice.
The game sports a few different game modes. You need to complete the Training Mode first to unlock the Story Mode, which is actually a good idea. The Training levels can really help you get a grasp of what you have to do in the game. The Story Mode itself is a series of challenges, where you must survive for a while, against both occasional timed 'challenges' and the game itself, to open up new arenas to play in.
You can also play any arena (time period, whatever) you've opened in a head-to-head option. This is where the real fun of the game lies -- screwing your neighbours. And this is where you'll truly use the first really new feature of Aqua Aqua. There's a bingo card on the screen, and doing certain things gains you places on the card. Getting pieces in a line invokes an attack on your opponent -- usually, to devestating effect. Sometimes it's quite cool, but at other times it can be annoying.
You may be wondering why, with all this relatively glowing praise, Aqua Aqua has a relatively low score. Well, read on, my friends.