‘Aquaria’ clearly is a labor of love. It’s just that love doesn’t write good video games, love doesn’t prevent my game collection from getting cluttered up by games I don’t care for and love doesn’t stop me from writing about said games.
After a short confusing intro, we play as fish girl ‘Naija’ in a metrovanian style underwater world called ‘Aquaria’ – yeah I know. The graphics of the underwater caves are nice and full of details, the controls are solid and it even has innovative features like that impractical song mechanic which lets you play short tunes to active special abilities or solve icon/note based riddles. I am sure that there is an audience out there who loves this game and I will gladly tell you why I can’t join them and stopped playing after less than an hour.
The writing is so stiff and corny, full of ‘philosophical’ babble which gets boosted further by the very serious and serene, this-is-my-thoughtful-timbre voice acting. I don’t mind games taking a philosophical excursion. ‘Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs‘ basically poses the question wether mankind doesn’t deserve extinction by pigmen. ‘What Remains of Edith Finch‘ makes a good point about life being shortened by death, but both games do it with a knowing twinkle in their eyes.
Then there’s the music, which at it’s better moments copies chord progressions directly from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movie soundtrack, but for the most part is so corny, that even the Elves were embarrassed. It goes perfectly with the writing.
In combination with those flaws there’s no chance for a game in a genre that didn’t interested me much in the first place, to keep me entertained.
It is my impression that the game is solidly made and it’s different parts fit well together, even in their corniness. For a ten year old indie game the production values are surprisingly high. It’s simply bad luck for ‘Aquaria’ to have made it’s way into my collection, as my heart is as cold as the frozen water of a wintry lake and bereft of the warming but fragile love it once held.