Discless: Hydrophobia

 Hello everyone, and welcome to the first (of hopefully many) reviews titled Discless. These reviews will cover digital-download only games, such as those of the Xbox Live Arcade (XBL for short), PlayStation Network (PSN), and more.

Time to grab your swimsuit, jump in, and make a splash, because today, we’re looking at Hydrophobia, a game by Dark Energy Digital. Hydrophobia is a short, third-person adventure game that takes place in the mid-21 century, aboard a giant city-ship known as The Queen of the World. You play as Kate Wilson, an engineer aboard the ship. Without revealing too much of the plot, her peaceful lifestyle is interrupted when explosions and hull breaches begin to occur on the ship, and Kate finds herself thrust into a situation in which the fate of the ship is resting on her shoulders. As Kate uncovers the mystery behind the strange occurrences, she will meet many allies, make many enemies, and discover that the world is much less peaceful than predicted. One more note about the story: It is incomplete. Hydrophobia has been said to be a three-part trilogy, so the first game ends in a cliff hangar. I was disappointed, but it certainly left me wanting more.

Gameplay revolves around water physics (big surprise there, I’m sure), which are phenomenal, as the water is free flowing and drastically affects the world around it. In other games, when a player enters the water, there may be a splash and some ripples and they start swimming. In Hydrophobia, water currents will push the player around, rushing water can slam the player into walls and floors (I died a few times in such a manner), and it can even carry around floating fuel fires from destroyed fuel barrels, forcing the player underwater. The amount of water in each area the player enters can be altered by different actions. For example, one player may choose to destroy fuel barrels in order to blow a breach in the wall and allow more water in, whereas another player may search for a pump control system that can decrease the amount of water in the area.

Hydrophobia‘s gameplay also features a sort of Assassin’s Creed\Tomb Raider hybrid climbing system. Kate can scale walls, balance on beams, hoist herself onto ledges, jump from platform to platform, shimmy across pipes and ledges, and much more. It makes getting around the ship a lot more enjoyable than running down corridors and swimming everywhere. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies you can maneuver Kate into, and bonus goodies you can find in some of the most obscure locations. 

 The third-person shooter combat style is also affected by water. The game features two combat styles: Land and water. The two are identical except for two changes: In water combat, you have a free range of motion, up, down, left, right, forward, back, you name it, you can do it. In addition to the free range of movement, the player must monitor their oxygen level and periodically surface to replenish their air. The player’s weapon is designed such that the first shot knocks an enemy unconscious, which it can later recover from. The second shot will be a kill shot, but you must shoot the opponent while they are unconscious from the first shot. On land, the opponents can recover from the first shot. Underwater, if the enemy winds up unconscious in an area where they cannot drift to the surface, they will usually drown (some recovered while I was fighting them). There are certain enemies that have dive masks that nullify that effect, but the one-two punch of your weapon can quickly dispatch them.

Hydrophobia is probably one of the most fun XBL Arcade games I’ve ever owned. The water physics blow me away, the story is incredibly intriguing, and the gameplay is fantastic. If you like games like Tomb Raider, Uncharted, or Assassin’s Creed, then this game is right up your alley. If you dislike short stories or cliff hanger endings, you might be out of luck with Hydrophobia. So if you’re looking for a great game at an inexpensive price from the XBL Arcade, download a copy of Hydrophobia for only $15.