Bit Blot has released their Metroidvania-styled game, Aquaria, for the iPad. If the game sounds familiar don’t be surprised, this game is a port of the former IGF winner from 2007 for the PC. Aquaria for the iPad is a wonderful port from the original with only a few flaws between the original and the iPad version.
One of the biggest factors to consider when porting a game to an iOS device is the changes from a traditional keyboard and mouse to a full touch interface. With Aquaria, the controls are both a hit and a miss, but the movement does feel very natural when compared to the PC. Touching the screen causes the main character to move around and interact with objects; the game feels like it was originally built for playing on the iPad. However, having touch screen controls does present a bit of an issue when using projectiles or using other abilities. These controls use virtual buttons on screen that stick out like a sore thumb. While they don’t typically hinder the experience, there are moments where more precise control is required. These points in the game have you crossing your fingers between each other and make the game feel unnatural to play. There are also some issues with frame rate on the original iPad. It doesn’t run as silky smooth as its newer counterpart, the iPad 2. The iPad has a slightly slower frame rate during specific sections where the game tends to get a lot more hectic or with too many pieces on the screen.
As with most adventure games, Aquaria strength lies in its engrossing atmosphere and compelling world. All of the art in the game gives off the vibe of a dark fairytale world gone wrong and each section of the game makes the underwater world both alluring and alien at the same time. If you stop for a moment in the game and really take at a look of the flora, fauna, and architecture on the screen, you can really experience the beauty. Sound is another factor as to what makes Aquaria so great. The game uses the main character’s ability to sing as an implement for most of her abilities. Along with that, what is extraordinarily striking is the soundtrack. Each track is laid down perfectly to match the calm ocean settings or the mysterious ruins that you come across.
Aquaria is a Metroidvania-style game through and through. It takes a simple formula of walling off areas until you obtain the correct spell or object to let you pass. The game provides a subtle hint feature that is supposed to guide you, but you may often find myself getting lost at times. This becomes especially frustrating when access to the next area is blocked off because you might have missed a small white ball that you were supposed to pick up. While there a few complaints about certain mechanics, the game nails down atmosphere and it will suck you into its slightly wonky, but amazing story. The world is perfectly portrayed as a dark fairytale that is very similar to Pans Labyrinth. It is compelling, dark, mysterious, and it certainly doesn’t want to let you go.