Publisher: Dark Energy Digital
Developer: Dark Energy Digital
by: Jason "OrigamiPanther" Love
The most discussed and pinpointed aspect of Dark Energy Digital’s XBLA debut title, Hydrophobia, is its dynamic water system. Standing in a flooded room in the game and just watching the water as it ebbs, flows, and moves about in a way that seems completely natural is fairly impressive. What’s more impressive is that the game does generates a gameplay feeling akin to actually being in an enclosed space where a rush of incoming water leads to that sudden panic as your head slips underneath the surface and you’re not sure if you have enough air in your lungs to make it up again. Eventually, though, this feeling wears off and what ends up standing out the most about the game is its humor, its nod to the action/adventure genre of games, and the idea that as a first episode, it’s not the most promising debut, but the potential is there.
The game places you in the shoes of engineer Kate Wilson as she navigates from area to area in an attempt to escape from the world’s largest floating city, the Queen of the World, which has recently come under attack by a group of terrorists that believe that the only way to solve the overpopulation problem plaguing the Earth is to kill people. As an action/adventure game, you face your fair share of "go here and get a key to unlock this door" dilemmas as well as "use this new gadget" type puzzles. This is where the game’s humor comes in as Kate’s friend/guiding voice, Scoot, will joke about having to do this again and at one point even hums the iconic "you got an item" tune from the Legend of Zelda series at one point. This self-referential humor, in some games, can be a grating reminder of a game’s shortcomings, yet here seems oddly appropriate and enjoyable. There is little new gameplay-wise from Hydrophobia (the environmental kills are an interesting, fun idea but never quite seem to deliver all that one hopes for), but it seems to embrace that as if to say, "this works just enough, and we know it’s not the real reason you’re here."
As the first in a planned three episode story arc, Hydrophobia establishes a world that is a little terrifying to wade through and is ripe with possibilities for future episodes. However, there is quite a bit of a gap that will need to be bridged to offer more for the average gamer than an impressive "Water World."