Aqua Panic! HD

As brain melting as it is enjoyably colourful. The very first thought that leapt to mind after I dived into the world of Aqua Panic. It is Lemmings meets Loco Roco meets Feeding Frenzy. Just in case that doesn’t quite epitomise the game well enough, Aqua Panic is a 2D puzzle game where your mission is to get your fish (and the water that contains them) from the top of the level to the bottom without leaving too many fish high and dry, or eaten. You are given a variety of tools to block the water flow, destroy the level to make a path, or alter the direction of the water. That’s pretty much the entire game summed up rather nicely in a couple of sentences – simple game right?

WRONG! There are few games in the world that have had me scratching my scalp the way Aqua Panic had. Simple premise – absolutely, but this game is more mind rattling than Lemmings ever was. It transcends Lemmings difficulty by a nautical mile. It starts off gently enough, lulling you into a false sense of security, with plenty of bright colourful levels and happy and peppy music going on. You are taught some of the basics – how to use rockets to make holes in the scenery and how to use plants to block the flow of water. It all seems innocent enough to wrap your brain around to get your fish to the bottom of the screen. Then BAM! Controllable snail faucets, uncontrollable snail faucets, fish devouring flamingos – There are so many variables that you’ll be chewing your R2 button off when you attempt the same level for the 40th time that hour.

That doesn’t make Aqua Panic a bad game. It’s a puzzle game, it’d be an awful game if you didn’t have the desire to test your SixAxis’s ability to work as a boomerang. Puzzles games are one of the few refuges of gaming satisfaction. Aqua Panic understands this, so each level is crafted so expertly that you believe that you can do it… even when all your fish are plummeting to their death off a nearby edge you forgot to block. It deliberately keeps you playing the game because it knows that you know that you can beat that level, you just need to try that little bit harder.

I bravely chose to tackle this mighty beast of a challenge in a single sitting, and I have to say that I was clinging to the ceiling by my fingernails by the time I valiantly struggled my way to level 30. I’d already memorised the entire soundtrack and will likely be singing it at my own funeral so all that was left was to reach the next level number that was divisible by 10. The important part, though, was that each and every time I did I celebrated like I’d just won the lottery and the cheque was going to be hand delivered by a bikini-clad Christina Hendricks. Seriously, that is quite close to the amount of excitement I experienced when I finally got through a level that was steadily helping me towards male pattern baldness.

Aqua Panic is a fantastic puzzle-‘em-up. The rich, bright environments and addictively upbeat music do a lot to draw your eye straight away. The Loco Roco style visuals coupled with the frustrating yet eerily satisfying difficulty curve really work well to bring a love of the genre back to my cold-hearted shooter based brain. Just be prepared to hate it the entire time you love playing it, because it will cause your grey matter to ooze out onto your shoulder like a fish out of water a lot more than once during your adventure.


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