Developer: Dark Energy Digital
Release Date: 5/9/2011
Also Available On
Hydrophobia was a game that was announced a few years ago, but quickly was forgotten about and seemed to have gone into the way of vaporware, but suddenly it came back as an XBLA game. The game was boasted about excellent water and physics to support it, as well as a mantra of “the water is your enemy” selling point. Upon release, the game seemed highly overrated with dated visuals, poor combat, and lackluster level design. While most of this is true there is still something to be had in Hydrophobia.
The PC port boasts better graphics and refined gameplay mechanics, but there are still some issues. The water physics really are incredible and I haven’t seen anything quite like it with water bursting in through a door and making Kate act like if you were actually in an ocean or being bombarded by waves. While it feels a bit stiff to maneuver through this it makes you feel like you are trying to desperately escape this sinking city. While the physics are good the story is a bit lacking with little to go by due to the short length. You are trying to stop some crazy Russian woman named Mila from using a corporation’s nanobots as a biological weapon and that’s about as far as it goes…literally. Why is the game called hydrophobia? Does Kate have it? It seems that way because when you get close to drowning you can hear her thoughts of maybe in her childhood she almost drowned? The game never explains this.
While you trudge on through the watery depths you can clamber your way up to areas for platforming segments which are far and few between. The beginning of the game mainly consists of this then slowly becomes very combat heavy. Combat isn’t very fun in the game due to a poor cover mechanic (there really isn’t one except ducking) and the shooting feels a bit stiff. You have one pistol that you can swap ammo with such as semi-auto/auto rounds, explosive gel, electrocution rounds, and your main ammo type is a charged kinetic shot that can knock enemies dead. Later on in the game, they throw so many enemies at you that it detracts from the watery atmosphere.
Another issue is level design because everything is very claustrophobic and is built of just tons of hallways. It’s another problem when your MAVI unit tells you to go in one direction and sometimes it will be a pain to find out how to get there because of the lack of natural clues. Sometimes you have to go into a hacking minigame, sometimes you have to find a decipher code on a wall that you can only see with the MAVI and find these will drive you nuts sometimes.
The visuals are good for the level that they are at, but even with a high-end system, you will experience frame rate drops and stuttering. They have gotten better since its initial release, but it still exists. The visuals overall have some low-resolution textures, and the characters have terrible lip syncing and the art style is pretty stale. What should you play the game for? It’s a decent 5-6 adventure with great water physics that haven’t really been done before. That’s pretty much it and for the low price point, it’s well worth it.