Hydrophobia Pure

Review

posted 2/16/2011 by Sean Cahill
other articles by Sean Cahill
Platforms: 360
Dark Energy Digital took some harsh criticism a few months ago when their title Hydrophobia was released on the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace.  Since then, the company has worked to fix some of the bugs and problems that it had with the initial release.  In late December, the company released what is now known as Hydrophobia Pure, once again for the Xbox Live Arcade.

For those who do not know the backstory, you are in control of Kate Wilson while on the ship known as The Queen of the World set in the year 2051.  As expected with a game about survival, there are mitigating circumstances that you need to know prior to starting the game.  The world is now densely over-populated, pushing the ten billion mark.  This ship is reserved for the most elite people, living in a city on the sea, so to speak.  Of course, you learn about the problems that arise when you have such a creation.  There are two groups working towards different goals.  First, you have the Cornucopians, who's goal is to solve the problem that the world has by creating a technological solution.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the Malthusians, who basically want to use genocide to lower the population.


The game wastes no time jumping into the action.  After spending a few minutes roaming around Kate's living quarters to familiarize yourself with the control system, you are thrust into the chaos almost immediately, making sure that no time is wasted on downtime.  Early on, you will find the game fairly easy as the system does a good job of helping you out with simple tasks and puzzles.  After you get your feet wet, no pun intended, you will have to figure things out for yourself all while trying to not only survive against the intruders that now roam the ship, but a race against time with rising water.

What I truly found enjoyable with this game was the system's famed HydroEngine.  The movement in water, especially under the surface, is quite realistic.  There is no comical running on the ground even while completely submerged.   If you attempt to do this, the game simply will not let you.  Knowing where you have to go before getting yourself into a predicament where you are short on air will become quite vital as you push forward throughout the game.  Malthusians, of course, are going to be there to provide resistance, whether it is out of the water, in the water, or underneath it.  This is where the game shines, forcing you to have to locate the attackers simply by the direction in which you are being shot at.  There's no on-screen HUD to help you out here, boys and girls.  You have to find them the hard way:  With your eyes.


Hydrophobia Pure does a decent job of mixing up some elements that you find in other games.  I certainly felt a little bit of Mass Effect when it came to choosing a weapon, ammo, and actually attacking the intruders.  On top of this, I definitely enjoyed using the scanner to find the hidden messages that are written on the walls, giving the feel of playing Metroid: Prime for certain.  While the game does a great job of making you feel comfortable with these elements fairly quickly, you need to remember how to do all of these things even faster, especially if you get caught in an area that starts to flood.  One of the most nerve-racking moments I had in the game was being trapped in a large room that quickly flooded, having several attackers firing at me, all while running out of air.  The first time, I most certainly panicked, and it ended in Kate drowning.  This element does not change throughout the entire game, until you start pulling yourself out of the lower levels.  Sometimes, I feel like the game could have done better if it had been done in a first person point of view, but I understand that it would not have been feasible, considering that Kate is not in any type of high-tech armor or has a suit that can give her crosshairs to help her.

The game is not without its flaws, however.  While the length of the game is short (only 4-7 hours, depending on your skill level) perhaps even for an XBLA title, I don't believe that is the primary issue with the game.  Having never played the first installment of the title, I found that some out of water movements can still seem a little clunky.  It didn't happen all of the time, but if you ended up in a corner, you found yourself dealing with some camera issues.   I also found the map system to be a little frustrating at times.  I like 3D mapping, don't get me wrong, but I believe it has to be done well in order for it to truly shine.  Some of the chambers in the game had plenty of little rooms that would make it somewhat difficult to figure out how to navigate if you zoomed in or out too far.  The challenge mode, also, I felt could have been better.  It was enjoyable the first couple of attempts I had, but was certainly repetitive and became fairly easy to know what was going to come at you with each wave.

On top of this, when dealing with game mechanics, I found that it was very, very difficult for Kate to actually be shot to death by the attackers in the game.  There were several times where I was stuck in a large room, being pelted from more than one angle, and Kate stood there and basically took it with a smile on her face.  I never once died from an attacker onslaught, yet I can tell you that she took more than a dozen shots in each of these cases.  While some people might find that as a bit of a bone from the developers, I think there has to be a happy medium between "Dead" and "Invincible" at some point.


* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

B-
Hydrophobia Pure is not without its flaws, but Dark Energy Digital answered its critics by providing plenty of updates and overhauls to a system that needed a boost. The HydroEngine still shines and provides plenty of realistic moves for the player to enjoy. While the game suffers from some game mechanic problems even after the update, there's no denying that it has improved for the better. Considering the cost of the game on XBLA, you can certainly do worse when choosing a title to tide you over for a good survival-action game.


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