Aquaria by Bit Blot (PC/Mac/Linux/Android, 2007-2011).
June 22, 2013 8:03 PM   Subscribe

"The Verse flows throughout Aquaria, through each ripple and wave, through every living being. The Verse binds us, narrator and explorer: my story will become your own, and yours will become mine. You will live my life through my eyes, and you will learn the truth… In time, I would discover far more than I'd wish to learn."

Aquaria is a richly detailed, open-world 2D platformer that is set in edenic underwater environments. Created by a two-person team that called itself Bit Blot, the game was originally released for Windows in 2007. The game's painterly graphics, absorbing atmosphere, sparse, but touching story, and well-balanced gameplay earned it the grand prize at the 2007 Independent Games Festival (post-hoc Escapist interview).

The original team of Derek Yu and Alec Holowka was ad hoc (the name "Bit Blot" was created specifically to accompany the submission to IGF), and for a while it looked like the Windows version of the game would be the only one. A Macintosh port was released in late 2008 by Ambrosia Software. The game was ported to Linux by Icculus concurrent with the open-sourcing of the game's code. Finally, 2011 saw the release of an official touchscreen-compatible version of Aquaria. It was developed by Andrew Church, who had earlier hacked together an unofficial PSP port of the game.

The game puts the player in the perspective of Naija, a mermaid-like being who is initially completely alone in a vast sea filled with the ruins of dead civilizations. As she searches for clues to her identity, she will discover her world's tragic history and her unique place in it. Through judicious use of voiceovers (British actress Jenna Sharpe), Naija reveals herself to be a strong, determined character who stands up for herself and defends those she cares about. (Two-part creator interview from seemingly defunct website: 1 | 2)

The game also features numerous mysterious inscriptions that use a substitution cipher, filling in a bit of backstory (spoilery forum threads: 1 | 2 | 3). The game's simple item-creation mechanic seems to show evidence of its creators' family backgrounds: a bunch of the healing items the player can make are either pierogies or sushi.

An expanded game soundtrack is available on Bandcamp.

There is a competent Let's Play for the game.

Aquaria is currently part of the pay-what-you-want Humble Bundle (with Android) 6.

(mentioned previously 5 years ago)
posted by Nomyte (7 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Loved Aquaria. Could've used more exploration, and it's too bad the mod scene never took off for it. Also, it's basically a kind of free-roaming side-scrolling shooter, especially when you get some of the better power-ups, which is maybe not the intensity of action you'd expect from a game like this.
posted by curious nu at 9:52 PM on June 22, 2013

Loved the exploration, the artwork. The jumping action was okay, but I'm not great at that and it could be frustrating at times. The item combination mechanic was a lot more tolerable once I had cheat sheets. The shooter part of it, though, didn't really fit in for me.

Can't say I cared for the cliff-hanger ending, either, but it's difficult to go into details without massive spoilers.
posted by YAMWAK at 12:34 AM on June 23, 2013

The jumping action is bad for obvious in-game reasons. Jumping is never required to make progress.

The game does get challenging at times, both in terms of action intensity and guidance offered to players. I don't see anything wrong with that.

As for the ending, one could either play for the experience, as opposed to for the sake of reaching the end, or one could avoid collecting every optional thingamajig and get the vague ending rather than the cliffhanger ending.
posted by Nomyte at 11:40 AM on June 23, 2013

I really liked this game, particularly for the gorgeous art direction and the wonderful music. Some of my favorite tracks:

Sun Temple
Heart of the Forest

I love the oceanic, calming style of a lot of the soundtrack and I was super happy to find it offered on Bandcamp after playing. Overall, the game kind of reminded me of Secret of Mana, Soul Reaver and Ecco the Dolphin thrown into a blender. The controls were a bit hard for me, but I'm happy with whatever it is that evokes that particular mashed up impression for me.
posted by byanyothername at 12:06 PM on June 23, 2013

A USB gamepad actually made a world of difference for me.
posted by Nomyte at 2:06 PM on June 23, 2013

Jumping may not be required to finish the game (although I seem to remember an annoying area with lots of gears that did involve some jumping). It _is_ required to get all the optional thingamajigs (it's been years, but I seem to recall a bird egg that is non-trivial to get, for example).

The biggest challenge section for me, and the part that came closest to making me quit, was the musical puzzle. I did not find that at all easy, being practically tone deaf and all that. The shooting I could generally handle, just didn't think it fit very well with the game as a whole.

I do play for experience, but there is a narrative flow to the game and ending on a cliffhanger is not my idea of a good story. Having a non-cliffhanger ending for people who didn't take a semi-completionist route strikes me as being unfair. At least they get some sort of closure.
posted by YAMWAK at 5:18 AM on June 24, 2013

Thanks for warning me that the ending is unsatisfying. I'd played a fair way into the game on a previous PC, and was contemplating whether to find the save file and copy it onto my current PC or start again from scratch. Sounds like I'll take the third door, forget about it and play a different game instead.
posted by jepler at 6:39 AM on June 24, 2013

« Older Everything thing he does, he does it for... Vogue...   |   Sign me up Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments