Cost: 500 Nintendo Points
Nintendo’s Art Style series has long been a competent source for great, addictive puzzling through the company’s downloadable services. Starting off as WiiWare exclusives, games like Cubello and Rotohex proved to be refreshing, fun, and innovative puzzlers. AQUIA marks the series’ debut in the DSiWare lineup, and for only 500 points, it’s a total bargain! But does it bring the trademark innovation Art Style games have shown off in the past? You bet it does.
AQUIA’s gameplay is a simple concept that, at the same time, is completely fresh and invigorating. There is one tall tower of blocks that stretches across the span of both screens. The player’s piece is a vertical line of only two blocks (which can be changed to a horizontal line or a box of four before the game starts) that are swapped into and out of the tower to switch out the corresponding blocks on the other side. The goal of the game is to match up like-colored pieces and remove them from the field until you reach the goal.
Keeping you from success is a sheet of darkness that slowly creeps over the playing field, top to bottom, and can only be removed by assembling a line of three special blocks which appear sporadically throughout the game. Once the shadow covers the entire property of both screens, you lose.
Progress is marked by a diver at the right hand of the screen, as the game takes place entirely under water. Your swimmer has to make it to the very bottom of the ocean floor he runs out of light in order to be successful. Every time you manage to remove a combination of blocks from the field your diver moves in a quick spurt. Strategically lining up combination’s is the only way to survive in the later levels of the game.
And what would a game in the Art Style series be without unique visuals and invigorating sound design? In the distance of the ocean there are bubbles peacefully floating by and fish swimming along behind your tower of blocks. The graphics are very clean, though basic in comparison with the game’s WiiWare cousins. After clearing a certain level, the player is granted a new addition to his aquarium. Sea horses, blow fish, angel fish, etc. are all unlockable rewards for clearing out a stage without drowning.
The entrancing sounds and music are easily my favorite part of the game next to its swap-the-blocks gameplay. Every level has a different track, always tranquil, and moving blocks and clearing lines leads to unique, symphonic sounds. Everything about the sound design is musically peaceful, unless you are nearing defeat. That’s when the music starts to feel a little more urgent without being forceful or separating itself from the main track.
As far as modes of play go, there are only two — timed dive and free dive. The timed dive is the main mode, so to speak. It is here that you will play through select levels, 1 – 10, in the quickest time possible to unlock more fish to add to your aquarium. In free dive, you’ll play for as long as you possibly can without failing and try to achieve the longest cumulative time possible.
And the unlockables are a bit underwhelming in all honesty. There are 25 different items to add to your collection, 1 – 22 and SC1-3. While there is plenty to try to track down, there isn’t really any point outside of personal satisfaction. Or you could show them off to your friends, but then they’ll think you’re gay for carrying around digitized fishies. The omission of online leader boards definitely takes away from the overall entertainment value to the game, but most gamers will find plenty to love.
AQUIA definitely keeps the Art Style ball rolling. Refreshing, innovative gameplay that welcomes the casual audience and tests the hardcore makes this one a no-brainer on the DSi. And for only 5 bucks it’s a hard price to beat. It’ll keep you coming back for more, trust me.
- Addicting gameplay
- Smooth visuals
- Wonderful music. It’s magical
- 25 collectibles to track down
- Only 5 bucks
- Only 2 modes of play
- No online modes or leader boards
- Collecting fishies brings into question one’s sexual preferences. It either makes you gay or a gigolo. Maybe a gay gigolo
Score: 8.43/10 (Great)
Gameplay: 9.0/10 (Refreshing and addictive)
Graphics: 8.0/10 (Very clean though admittedly basic)
Audio: 9.0/10 (Brilliantly designed for ambient feel)
Entertainment Value: 7.75/10 (Gameplay will keep you coming back for the rest of the fish, but online leader boards would’ve been an excellent addition)