Aquattack! Or Should I Say, Heart Attack!
Mere Mortals‘ first mini Aquattack! is an intriguing game. At first glance, it seems like it’s just another match 3 game with fishes taking the place of jewels (or any shiny and colorful items other games utilize). Don’t be fooled. Mere Mortals have managed to tweak and twist and turn this tired genre. Unlike any other match 3 game, Aquattack! plays like a Rubik’s Cube. Instead of merely swapping fishes, this game will move an entire column or row every time you press a button.
I adore its simple controls. You treat the X, Circle, Triangle and Square buttons like directional buttons. Highlighting a fish and then pressing X will push down the selected fish’s entire column, which means that the lowermost fish will replace the uppermost fish and vice versa. By this time, you can imagine what Triangle can do. Square and Circle manipulates the rows in left and right directions respectively.
There are two modes for the game, the Arcade Mode and the Challenge Mode. The Arcade Mode is the easier half of the game. Time limit is imposed for this mode but the game gives you bonuses every time you complete a feat (e.g. stringing 3 fishes will net you a 2-second extension). Challenge Mode will literally give you all sorts of aches in every part of your body and I am not exaggerating. The challenges in this mode are very difficult to beat.
There are special peices (yes, the developers misspelled pieces) that will either help you or add hurdles to the already spiked difficulty of the mode. A mine will appear if you manage to string four fishes of the same color. Basically, when you complete another string of fishes next to a mine it will explode. This will release the fishes adjacent to the mine and will be replaced immediately. You might say, “There’s nothing wrong with that!” But if you already had plans on what to do next, a premature explosion will obliterate your ingenious schemes. And I’m talking about split-second planning here since you have to accomplish most of the challenges within seconds.
I even tried to cheat my way out. I thought if I hit the start button to pause the game I could lay out a plan on how to beat a certain challenge. I failed. Apparently, pausing the game will let the menu take over your PSP screen.
Aquattack! has this infuriating gameplay hiccup. It has to finish animating the release of completed strings before you can continue on moving the rows and columns. It takes about half-a-second to complete the animation but every half-a-second counts. Sometimes you’ll waste a lot of time waiting for low scoring strings to finish their fancy animations. It may feel like you’re in the zone after hitting a lot of combos but always remember, a single 4-fish string is better than three 3-fish strings in successive occasions. Why? Here is my calculation: 4-fish string scores you 800 points with a penalty of +/- .50 seconds while the three 3-fish string scores you 900 points (300 points for each string) with a penalty of +/- 1.50 seconds.
The game has only one game soundtrack. You’ll never bother about it anyway since you need to focus all of your senses in formulating ways to beat the challenges. There are 50 challenges with varied goals (e.g. breaking up corals with mines, stringing electric eels or completing rainbows) but the game won’t reward you with anything other than the bragging rights. It is rare for a mini to hold longevity that Aquattack! possess. I’m thinking maybe because of its godlike difficulty or maybe it’s just me.