In my post on Hydrophobia: Prophecy, I almost said “I’m only on Act III.”  Only, um, there are only three acts.  I played through the whole thing in about eight hours. 

I gather Dark Energy is a small studio, and the smallness shows mainly in the level design.  Still, what’s there is pretty polished, and the fluid physics are very well done.  It’s normally $12 and is still on sale for $4– it’s worth it at either price.

Bad chick gets what's coming to her

Not that there aren’t missteps; the major one is that you get some awesome water control powers right at the end.  You literally have one puzzle and one corridor of baddies to test them out with, and then you’re at the final boss.  This is hiding your light under a bushel, Dark Energy. 

It could use more enemies, or more varied ones; they’re really only challenging when you can’t see where they are, or they’re swimming.  There’s also an intense fight in an open plaza that’s fun simply because there’s so many of them. 

One oddity: there’s a bit where you have to dive really deep, then swim through a tunnel, then go up a stairway… and for some reason the water level there is much lower.  Huh?

I mentioned the annoying lack of saves; it turns out you can replay an entire act.  But as each one is a couple hours long, that’s not much of a help.

The game basically tells you how to fight the final boss (SARA), but I had to watch someone’s video to really figure it out.  

  • The key bit is not to seek cover.  If you’re moving, the machine gun won’t hit you.  The big laser burst is the key.  Often you can dodge it; if not, no matter, just pick yourself up and proceed to the next step.
  • Right after the burst, it’ll sit there with its vents open.  One shot with the energy gun will stun it. 
  • Then, use your water powers to lift an explosive barrel, then throw it at the boss.  (The barrel need to be at the top of the tower of water, so don’t rush this.  You only need one hit.)
  • You’ll repeat this three times; in between some terrorists will be released.  Clear them out; for style points, get close enough to them that SARA fires at them.

The first time I tried the fight, I kept trying to stay in cover, and then the boss fires nasty mines at you, and rarely opens its vents.  This was quite frustrating.  It’s faster and easier to keep moving.

Also, the first time, I lost the explosive barrels… if I stunned the thing, I just wouldn’t have any nearby.  The solution is to use your movement: make sure you’re close to some barrels before stunning the boss.

The backstory is kind of dumb.  The terrorists are just Totally Evil, and my heart sank at all the cutscenes underlining this.  We get it, they’re bad.  There’s some idea that the ship is the only functioning bit of industrial capitalism remaining in an apocalyptic world, which doesn’t make any sense… where does it get its raw materials?  Does it really manufacture all that shiny metal and plastic and electronics on-board?  Also, sorry to get all realpolitik, but if industrial civilization has really collapsed, won’t the population crash without any help from terrorists?

Fortunately that doesn’t really matter, as the game is really about moving through the ship, solving puzzles and offing enemies.   I think it’s fun and I look forward to a sequel.

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