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Aqualibrium (Xbox 360) Review

/ Jul 11th, 2012 No Comments

Aqualibrium
Aqualibrium

Aqualibrium

Aqualibrium is a throwback puzzler that combines spatial awareness with twitch navigation. Imagine Pac-Man combined with Tetris and you get a good idea of the parts of the brain you’re going to be using to get through Aqualibrium. Published by indie developer Archifishal Software, maker of 2011’s Inferno!, Aqualibrium takes a simple concept and simple gameplay to create a retro-puzzler.

Gameplay

The concept is simple – release water from tanks at the top of the map and direct it into a collector at the bottom of the map. Your job is to divert water, run from aliens, avoid environmental hazards, and fill the water gauge before time runs out.

Unfortunately, the game opens with a shaky start. The tutorial level throws a lot of concepts at you very quickly, and I felt disoriented for the first few levels, thinking I was missing something. The info dump at the beginning is difficult to get past, and colored my first interactions with the game. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, or why, and pretty much had to figure it out by myself. The game could use a more deliberate approach to the concepts, introducing you to one thing before moving on to the next, in much the same way Portal does.

Three levels in or so, I started to get a feel for what the developer was going for. As the maps become more complicated, the game begins to work its mojo. The best part of the gameplay is it’s simplicity – as a two-dimensional 8-bit game, there isn’t a lot for you to do. You move, you shoot, and you drop blocks. The game is at its best when you’re running around like a headless chicken, managing multiple streams of water and trying not to get devoured or perforated.

Graphics

The graphics are cheerfully 8-bit and full of nostalgia. Everything from the opening menu to the block-shaped sprites recall a bygone era of keen commanders and Pac-Spouses. The colors are vibrant and distinct, and most specifically the water effects are done surprisingly well. The water, despite being made of a collection of enormous pixels, flows naturally and shimmers with a pretty cool color effect.

It’s hard to hit the game for achieving what it set out to do, but the graphics are a bit too simplistic. How much you enjoy them really depends on the strength of your nostalgia.

Aqualibrium

Let it Flow

Sound

Sound is where the game falls most flat. While the sound effects are perfect for the 8-bit romp, and the menu features some pretty funky tunes, the actual gameplay is completely devoid of music. Puzzle games evoke frustration – in fact, it could be argued that the entire point of a puzzle is to experience frustration and the spine-melting relief of overcoming it. However, there is a fine line between frustration and irritation, a line that can be smoothed over with the right tune. Tetris and Splice are examples of games that know the value of a catchy soundtrack. Aqualibrium has no background tune during gameplay, and it’s absence is deafening. During a particularly tough level that involved multiple agonizing deaths, the lack of music made me want to see if I could whip my controller fast enough to make it travel back through time.

Overall

Aqualibrium is a dollar. I’m gonna put that out on front street. For the low-low price of eighty Microsoft points you can take a pleasant trip down memory lane and maybe work your brain muscles a bit too. In fact, I would most recommend Aqualibrium for young children. The combination of spatial awareness, quick thinking, hand-eye coordination, and simple frill-free gameplay would probably help any child. I don’t meant to say it’s an edutainment game or anything like that, but the game is uncomplicated to a fault. If the game were five dollars, I wouldn’t recommend it, but for the same price as a McChicken sandwich you’ll consume half the calories and maybe even have a good time.

Overall Ratings – Aqualibrium (Xbox 360)

Gameplay:

7/10

Graphics:

6/10

Sound:

5/10

Sound:

9/10

Value:

10/10

OVERALL SCORE:

70%

B.C. Johnson
Part-time swashbuckler and full-time writer, B.C. Johnson lives in Southern California and yet somehow is terrible at surfing or saying "whoa." His first published novel, Deadgirl, came out this year and is available for Kindle, Nook, and even old dusty paperback. When he's not writing or playing video games, he can be found writing about playing video games and occasionally sleeping.
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