Aqua Platform: Xbox Live Arcade Price: 800 MSP / $10 USD Fight for survival on open waters. Gameplay: Aqua is a naval action game where you pilot a single ship through contested waters as you use multiple forms of artillery to complete your missions. The meaty part of this game is in the campaign mode. It consists of a bland story, presented with multiple characters discussing power struggles. Some of the voices quickly become annoying because of their different accents, so turning on subtitles and turning down the volume becomes a welcomed option. You are issued with doing multiple jobs, such as destroying fortresses, escorting big Titanic-like vessels and bringing down all enemies. These missions get monotonous once they start to repeat. For instance, the escort missions take too long and have too few checkpoints. This turns into a punishment if you have trouble completing them in the first couple attempts. The game's cut-scenes are done in a graphic novel type art style. Three different types of ships are available to choose from. A fast one, with weapons do a minimal damage, a slow one, whose weapons do greater damage and one in between both. Each ship has bonus upgrades, like improved ship speed, quicker weapon recoil and better armor. Each of these upgrades comes in three levels, usually something like 10, 20 and 30 percent, and each ship can have three of them active at a time. Using them strategically can make the slow ship faster and the fast ship survive longer. The left analog stick controls the ship's direction of travel and the right one controls where you shoot. You are given the option to choose which weapons you use for each ship. Four to six, depending on which ship you choose, different types of unlimited weapons are available, but one of them is much more efficient then the others. Among them you get two different types of single line shots (like regular and machine gun in Contra), one spread (similar to the spread in Contra) and a flamethrower (sort of like the flamethrower in Neo Contra). The flamethrower is by far the best since it leaves the enemies burning and slowly drains down their life. You also get two weapons that can only be used if you collect and stock them; missiles and land mines. The mines come in very handy when being chased but the missiles shoot straight out of the front of the ship, which is quite pointless since you are rarely sailing straight at the things that are shooting at you. An epic battle between good and evil, with your tiny ship in the middle of the action. Campaign mode was pretty easy to begin with, for say the first five or so quests. Beyond this point the missions vary in difficulty, causing you to have to change it between runs. A certain escort mission comes to mind. You spend about ten minutes getting this ship from the start point to the end, then it has to shoot down a heavily reinforced door, which takes three shots at about a 30 second reload time. During this time a large number of enemy vessels attack the ship, which made it nearly impossible to defend at any difficulty other then easy, then there are quests after this one that can fairly easily be completed on hard mode. Throughout the game you have the option to add a group of four ships that can assist you in different ways. The ships can heal, attack other ships or attack buildings. The problem here is that you have to take four of the same type of ship. Yeah it's nice to have four ships that can help take down your enemies, but for the above mentioned escort, it would have been nice to have two gunners and two healers, to keep the escortee's (is that a word?) life up. Graphics & Audio: Graphics are sub-par. Water effects are about the only highlight with their wake trails and shimmering waves, but the vessels, buildings and islands all would need a major upgrade to look good. The sounds, however, were good. Music highlighted the action sequences and the dialog was actually spoken, which is something I've noticed is missing from a lot of indie games. Replay value: There are multiple difficulty levels and a few little collectables you can find around the world, but I still have a hard time finding a reason to play through a second time. You might possibly get some replayability out of the co-op, though I didn't delve into it. Overall: For the first handful of hours, I had a lot of fun playing Aqua. But once I got to the end I had grown tired of the gameplay. The story wasn't involving, the graphics were below par and the repetitive mission structures, while fun at first, got boring. They have a lot of really great ideas here, but they failed to utilize them in the most efficient way; weapons are unbalanced, support ships can't be individually selected and the most powerful weapon only fires from the front of the ship. Pros: +Multiple weapon types +Decent length +Collectables scattered everywhere Cons: -Repetitive missions -Annoying escorts -Small amount of checkpoints -Developer's inability to get the most out of the game's aspects Aqua sails away with a 6.75/10. Like I've said before, I enjoyed playing the game until I got through all of the different types of missions and had to do them all again with a different skin thrown on top of them where I quickly grew bored with the game. The varying difficulty also brought the game down a couple points. A review copy was used to evaluate the game.