PSN Review – Aqua Panic!

November 1, 2010Written by Mike Hartnett

Originally Downstream Panic! on the PSP, the game was re-released on the PlayStation Network and re-branded as Aqua Panic!, a strategic puzzle title that has you using using various water-manipulating tools to try and take a group of fish safely back to water. Can the game separate itself from the hundreds of other puzzle games, or does it simply sink beneath the waves and into obscurity?

What is Aqua Panic! exactly? Well, that in and of itself is a pretty loaded question. Think hardcore puzzler mixed with a slight acid trip and a side order of Loco Roco-esqe musical stylings. We did our best to analyze the plot of this game so bear with us, but from what it appears, all the little fish in this happy little land get swept up in a great wind which traps them in bubbles which then spew out their content over the land. Your goal is to help navigate the fish, by way of the water, down slopes and various contraptions in order to reach a safe spot in the water, surrounded by fish-eating predators.

We didn’t know what to expect going in, but what we found was quite the nifty puzzler. Aqua Panic! starts out incredibly simply, easing players into the way the game is played by introducing new elements and items as you progress. As players begin, they are armed with nothing but explosives (set numbers), which they must use to blast out holes and passages in order for the little fish to make their way down the slopes and labyrinths. As levels are beaten, at least up until the first 5-10 or so, new usable items are introduced like plants, which grow to block off water and keep the flow contained, and harpoons which can be used to eliminate pesky enemies which appear on-land. The use of these items starts out as being pretty obvious, however the difficulty starts to skyrocket as you near the 20-level mark.

Now, when we say that the difficulty amps up, we mean it. Initially you can beat a level in about 3-4 minutes, but this number increases dramatically further on. A number of times we found ourselves taking 20-30 minutes or more to complete a single level. The maps get more intricate, times switches and the like are introduced, and players are left pulling their hair out. Yeah, Aqua Panic! is tough, but that makes it all the more rewarding when a difficult level is conquered, not to mention players have the ability to instantly reset a level with a press of the ‘select’ button, so experimentation is easy.

Aqua Panic!’s presentation is bright and cheerful, with the constant chitter-chatter/singing of your fishy companions filling the air. This music follows the same styling as Loco Roco, but isn’t anywhere near as enjoyable and can get somewhat annoying during extended gaming sessions. Luckily, the game does feature custom soundtrack support, with the sound effects overlapping your tunes. Visually, the game is cartoonish and simple, nothing too impressive, but it gets the job done. One downside  though is that the fonts, particularly those which display the number of items you have left, are incredibly difficult to read, even on high-end TVs, and you’ll often find yourself performing a dry run just to see how many of each item you have.

All-in-all, Aqua Panic! is a good game. While it’s nothing revolutionary, Aqua Panic! is a challenging, fun puzzler with aspects that can certainly be described as addicting and infuriating at the same time. While the steep difficulty may turn some away, those looking test their skills and triumph over the online leaderboards will definitely find value here; and at $9.99, players get a decent amount of bang for their buck.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ While somewhat repetitive, addicting gameplay will have you playing for hours.

+/- Steep difficulty level later on will be hit or miss for some.

– Visuals make vital in-game text near impossible to read.

8 out of 10