6 November 2011

Hydrophobia attacks!

Downloadable games can be like straight-to-DVD alternatives to Hollywood blockbusters. Most of them are crap but some of them are actually more honest and likeable than their multimillion counterparts. Here we have Hydrophobia Prophecy (available on PSN store and Steam) by a small UK developers Dark Energy Digital. On a big screen we have Uncharted 3, one of the hyped, "must see, must play" games of the fall. That is, if you read forums and see those strange comparisons. In fact Hydrophobia owes more to Tomb Raider's legacy than to Sony's flashy thrill rides.

Hello, Kate. Feeling well, are we?

You see, there are none of those "push the buttons" set pieces and orchestrated cash-in on offer here. Instead we have Queen of the World, a big ocean liner suddenly flooded and taken by terrorists. That's when the panic ensues and in the middle of all of it we find Kate Wilson, a low-level security officer. The water rushes everywhere, presenting hazards to your way, and to top of that, "malthusians" take very seriously their agenda. That is, they kill everyone who doesn't think like they do.

The water in Hydrophobia is your worst enemy and best friend. Presented in three acts, Hydrophobia follows Kate through the ship, a reluctant heroine (phhs, not that kind of reluctant, like "fuck you, man" attitude but more as frightened and bewildered young woman) in a pursuit to escape the chaos and perhaps find the solution to end it all.

Like Hydrophobia Prophecy does. Yes, this is the fourth time Dark Energy Digital has released Hydrophobia. Originally it appeared on Xbox Live over a year ago. They listened to the critics and soon released a patch so comprehensive it gave the game a name Hydrophobia Pure. With revamped graphics engine, controls and obstacles, it was smoother, yet as thrilling and cool (pun intended!) as the original. Me, I would have been perfectly happy with the original but it's a good sign developers listen to fans and try to improve, isn't it? Soon after Pure, Hydrophobia Prophecy was announced for PC (available through Steam) and PS3. PC version landed first, re-cut, re-designed, making it practically a completely new version of the same game. And they changed Scoot's (Kate's supervisor with whom she talks via ear piece) voice actor. That's what the audience wanted: "get rid of that awful, screeching Scottish accent!". And so we hear a bulky, commanding voice coming out almost unfriendly towards his protegee. Oh dear! Don't listen to everything the people say! For Pete's sake, you make the game, you should know better! No word about the promised PS3 version though. And no, Xbox would not get its Prophecy. Go figure!

I couldn't believe when I saw the game was suddenly released on a PSN store! At very handsome price it was a must buy for me. And thus we arrive at what Hydrophobia is to Uncharted 3. For all of its lack of big budget polish, it has more character than Nathan Drake ever could have. PS3 version is yet again revamped from PC's Prophecy, with some re-designed levels and added Move controls (luckily they are only optional). At the moment, it's the ultimate version of the game.

A boss fight! Great! Wait a second, Xbox version didn't have it. I smell something here...

Sounds great, doesn't it? Yes it is! It looks good, plays good, Kate is good, new Scoot voice is still crap, Kate's new water-controlling kinetic powers are cool. Yet... somehow I'm disappointed. Prophecy is more straightforward and forgiving than the game originally was. And it has a boss fight... A stupid boss fight because as cool as kinetic powers are their controls don't work well. In the end, it's easy though but this boss fight tells something. I fear there will never be a Hydrophobia trilogy as it was originally intended. Now Dark Energy Digital you should hear us, fans of your game! Don't be like George Lucas! Stop obsessively tweaking your game and move to the second part! Please! Pretty please! Still, I recommend Hydrophobia Prophecy. It costs only about 1/10 what you should pay for the blocbuster games big game houses throw at you for the end of the year season! It gives you chills, you know, those good chills and not those why I wasted my hard-earned cash chills.

1 comment:

NePaul Wilson said...

Haha I've always wondered about Hydrophobia. From the sound of it, it sounds like a solid game that one can sit down enjoy.

I've found though that a significant number of indie games far surpass many of the high blockbusters out here today. I still need to pick up Bastion. Along with games like Rez HD, Ms. Splosion Man, Braid, Beyond Good and Evil HD, there are tons of arcade games out there that are simply jaw dropping and from the looks of it more are on the way.

I'm interested in seeing more of the game FEZ and Bloodforge (more so Fez though).