I rarely purchase games from Xbox Live Arcade, I’m one of those weirdos that needs to have a physical copy for some reason. This O.C.D. of mine has kept me from some amazing games though, Hydrophobia being one of them. Little did I know for seven years this small survival horror title was at my fingertips. Before I downloaded this game I read about it and it reminded me of one of my favorite survival horror games from two generations ago that took place on a ship as well, Cold Fear. As the game downloaded I got more and more excited to experience it, and I wasn’t too disappointed. I enjoy all things survival horror and even though this title was a tad short and somewhat frustrating, I still enjoyed my brief time with it.
The world is a vastly different place than we know in this game, the human population has outgrown agricultural production. People are suffering, people are starving and people are about to take action into their own hands. The story takes place on the ship Queen of the World and the big wigs of the world are aboard enjoying the ten-year anniversary celebration of the ship. Kate, one of the engineers for the ship, is enjoying an evening off when every electronic item in her apartment goes all screwy. She calls her pal Scoot who is on the ship and he keeps telling her to enjoy her evening, little did they know they’d both be getting more than they bargained for. A terrorist organization, the Malthusians, wants to save the world by killing a large chunk of its population has been smuggled board the QOTW. They plan on killing everyone on board and making a point that not even the Elites are safe, well that’s not happening on Kate Wilson’s watch.
Being an Xbox Live Arcade game the quality of the graphics was actually about as good as Cold Fear, which isn’t a knock, but isn’t what I expected out of a title from the last generation of consoles. Dark Energy did do a great job with the water graphics though, but I’m assuming a game where your main enemy is water they had better be some good looking waves. The enemy design isn’t that great, they all look alike and sometimes you can barely see them, I would aim my weapon until the reticle turned red then I would fire in hopes of hitting my target. The water and environment really hide the Malthusians very well. The most difficult parts of the game are the platforming sections, even though this game holds your hand with destination markers the whole time, you sometimes cannot find your way up. I fell to my death many times wondering where I was supposed to jump from and figuring out where to land. This made for some very frustrating do-overs during the latter part of the game. Had they tweaked the platforming a bit, or made the areas to grab a bit easier to find this would have been a much more enjoyable experience.
The controls for Hydrophobia are surprisingly tight which is good because you’ll have a hard time finding where to jump once you’re platforming. Once you do see the pipe you need to jump onto be sure to press A, that will heave you over there. When you encounter a door or an interactive object simply press X and presto the door will open or the console will turn on. When you finally get the gun, which is pretty sweet, press Left Trigger to aim and Right Trigger to fire. You’ll need every bit of shooting perfection later on in the game when enemies are swarming you. Thankfully you get different bullets to put into the gun which makes killing baddies super fun and inventive. To proceed through the flooding ship you have to find ciphers to open locked doors, to do this you press down on the D-pad to bring up your Mavi which scans the specially painted ciphers, that the terrorists painted, and uses them on locked doors. If you can’t find the cipher you’ll just run around the same area of the ship for hours on end, so remember to scan around every now and then for information and ciphers.
I enjoyed Hydrophobia, I thought that it would be a little more scary seeing as the word “phobia” is in the title, but there really weren’t any scares. The only thing that scared me was the camera when I was trying to find the right door to leave through as I slowly drowned. You do get bang for your buck with this title, I think I spent 5 dollars for it and it entertained me for several nights. It can, however, be completed in one sitting it isn’t a very long or replayable game, but it is fun while it lasts. And don’t get your hopes up for any closure to the game either; the ending is pretty open-ended and I doubt I’ll get the closure I want and deserve. But if you want to kill about four hours of your day this is the game for you, no huge commitment or 100-hour game here. A nice quick game for those of us who need to pad our games beaten list.