The puzzle genre of video games is a little interesting to me in a special way: rarely do games of a given genre get ported to as wide of a variety of systems as puzzle games do. Think about it, how many different outlets have Tetris, Bejeweled, and Peggle made their way onto? You don’t really have to answer that; let’s just say it is a lot. Thus is the case with Eko Software’s Aqua Panic. The game has made its way across numerous platforms over the course of the last couple of years and continues to spread to even more. Players can find releases of the title on the PlayStation Portable (as Downstream Panic!), Nintendo DS, and the Nintendo Wii. Now, gamers can also get their fish-saving fix on the PlayStation Network with the recent release of Aqua Panic for PSN.
The premise of Aqua Panic is pretty simple. A giant hurricane has sucked up thousands of fish from the oceans and scattered them all over the Earth. In order to respond to this devastating natural disaster (as the game describes) scientists have created “water tanks” which have been placed all over the planet to house the fish until they can be safely returned to the rightful home(s). Players are tasked with getting a certain percentage (different per level) 100 fish back to their home in the seas safely. In order to do this, you will need to utilize a variety of tools and environmental objects in order to ensure a safe path down the open and safe seas. Along the way, you will encounter a variety of dangers including predator fish spread across your possible paths as well as outlets that leak your fish into the unsafe area(s) of the sea with larger, more ferocious fish waiting to eat your little guys whole. It is a simple and tried-and-true premise that has worked well in the puzzle game genre in numerous games dating back to the classic Lemmings series.
Saving all of the world’s little fishies is done across three modes in Aqua Panic. The main mode, or story mode if you will, will guide players through roughly 80 stages which vary in both the complexity of their design and their environment. As you progress through the stages, the game introduces you to each of the various tools and the techniques required to pass each stage; you will also get a chance to pick up coins spread throughout the world which add to your bank account for spending in other modes of the game. Early levels show you how to effectively use the bombs and harpoons to clear paths and eliminate predatory fish that lurk in the stages’ pockets where your fish will undoubtedly end up during their trip. Not too long after that, you will have a full arsenal at your disposal, though in limited quantities to complete each stage / challenge. The game will give you many tools to use both directly and indirectly including seeds to plant, clouds that hold your fish, and even the ability to freeze water for periods of time. When it comes to the coinage that is spread throughout the level, there are usually three types of coins: bronze, silver, and gold. Each classification of coin represents a different and increasing amount as well as placement on the map that varies in difficulty. Obviously, the more expensive golden coins are a lot harder to collect then the bronze which you will usually run across without putting in any extra effort. Money that is collected throughout your adventure can be spent in the game’s freeplay mode.
In addition to the story mode, players will also eventually gain access to both freeplay and challenge modes of the game. Freeplay is just as it sounds: instant access to any level in the game that you have previously progressed past in the story mode but with a few advantages. I use the term “progressed past” because the game offers players a chance to progress past a stage without completing the challenges set by the game. Players have access to 5 “Jokers”, or freebies, which can be used on any levels that may be causing them frustration or difficulty in their story mode progress. When a player uses a Joker on a stage, they are progressed to the next stage in the story mode. Once a Joker is used on a stage it is gone until you can beat that stage on your own in the freeplay mode. Levels are a little easier to beat in the freeplay mode because players are given the ability to spend any coins that they collect throughout their adventure on additional tools and items above and beyond what is provided in a given level. If you need an extra bomb beyond the three that the game gives you on a particular stage, you just buy another one using any money that you have stockpiled. This is particularly useful in stages that you may have used a Joker on to pass and will help you to put that Joker back in your inventory for use on later stages.
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