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152 MacDirectory GAME REVIEW AQUARIA > NOT JUST A GAME, IT'S AN ADVENTURE Bit Blot's Aquaria, published and distributed by Ambrosia Software, is an adventure game with a unique protagonist. Set almost entirely underwater, the game tells the tale of Naija, a humanoid with gills and webbed appendages, and her quest for identity. Having awakened with no memory of who she is, Naija must explore the vast undersea network of tunnels and open spaces to discover what has happened to its once-thriving population, and how to restore its people to life. This game won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the 2007 Indie Games Festival, and from the very start of the game, it's easy to see why. Every piece of scenery, every creature, every special effect has been lovingly crafted to harmonize with every other element, leading to an overall experience that refreshes with its gorgeous palette. Aquaria also features an amazing ambient soundtrack, with music that complements the action, rather than overwhelming it. Each distinct underwater zone has its own music, and it never gets in the way of accomplishing tasks, nor is it ever annoyingly repetitive. Thankfully, you're allowed your choice of ways to travel around the world: You can use the keyboard or mouse, but you've got more options with the mouse. Holding the mouse button down enables swimming, and you go faster or slower depending upon how far away from Naija you've placed the cursor. Clicking the mouse once when the cursor is at its farthest enables a burst of extra speed, allowing her to escape from a close follower. Aquaria offers an interesting couple of mechanics. The basic theme is one of exploration, and that plays out in the way that new powers and abilities must be discovered to be equipped. From the beginning, Naija discovers that she can use her voice to affect the environment. When the user holds the right mouse button, a circle of colored symbols rings her, and hovering the cursor over one will sound a note. If a similarly colored plant is nearby, using the note will harvest whatever that plant offers. By combining objects harvested from plants and defeated enemies, Naija can cook up a new item with beneficial properties, like healing, speed increase, defense, etc. Only by discovering examples of combined items will she get the recipe to create that item. In the same way, Naija can put notes together to create a song. Different songs create different effects, such as a temporary boost to her defense, or to lift heavy objects. Possibly the most important aspect of this mechanic, however, is the ability to use a song to change Naija's form. Unlike the standard discovery mechanic, new forms are given to Naija when the storyline dictates. These usually happen after a significant boss battle, or when you discover a brand new area. There are eight unlockable forms in all, and each one confers a different ability. For example, the first form turns Naija into a being of destructive energy, able to fire homing projectiles at all enemies within range. Holding the mouse button charges up this power, allowing a stronger attack. The trade-off is that Naija can't sing in anything other than her normal form. If there's any one negative about Aquaria, it's the necessity for backtracking to previously visited areas to access places you couldn't visit before for one reason or another, but that's a small price to pay for such an amazing game. There is nearly too much of interest in Aquaria to cover in a single review. Bit Blot has crafted a rich world with an interesting story and satisfying gameplay, with a gorgeous look and feel wrapped around it. Go download it today! WORDS BY KEONI CHAVEZ Product Aquaria Made by Bit Blot Price $30 download Pros Engaging storyline; vast world to explore Cons Repetitive backtracking; non- intuitive puzzles Rating HHHHH

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