- Developer: WarpedCore Studio
- Publisher: WarpedCore Studio
- Release Date: 21/05/2020
- Price: £12.99 / $14.99
- Review code provided by WarpedCore Studio
INTRODUCING: AQUA LUNGERS REVIEW
In 2017, Nintendo launched their fantastic new Switch console which not only bridged the gap between a home and a handheld console, but also set out to reinvent and revitalize local multiplayer. Nintendo had once upon a time been the kings of the multiplayer world with their 64 and GameCube consoles featuring 4 controller ports each, but as console generations pressed on, local multiplayer lost traction to its online counterpart. Nintendo has also had a near monopoly on the handheld gaming market, but neither the GameBoy or DS lines were ever truly built for local multiplayer in the same way their home counterparts were.
With the Switch, Nintendo added a new wrinkle to their portable gaming console by including the ability to play two-player local multiplayer right out of the box whether you’re in front of a TV or with enough table space for two. Developers have taken advantage of this feature by both porting and creating new games with an emphasis on local multiplayer to the Switch such as Ultra Street Fighter II, Overcooked and Snipperclips to name a few. WarpedCore Studio also decided to bring their treasure-hunting, action-adventure title Aqua Lungers to the Switch to see if it will sink or swim on Nintendo’s handheld powerhouse console.
Aqua Lungers jumps right into the deep end from the very beginning of the game while providing you none of that pesky narrative stuff. You start immediately by joining a match and picking your color and then selecting a level from the available zones. Each zone is broken up into several standard levels and one boss level. In standard levels your objective is to reach 3000 points by hunting for and returning sunken treasure back to your lunger’s chest while avoiding getting eaten by the level’s boss enemy.
Levels are made up of large, but closed-ended stages (not unlike a Smash Bros arenas) with sections above and below the water. Each level is filled with treasure to hunt, power-ups to use, and enemies to avoid, including a boss enemy that can one-hit kill you and cannot itself be killed. In order to defeat the boss creature, you must complete each level in a zone before a special stage is unlocked. In this special stage you’ll face a version of that zone’s boss that can be killed which you must do in order to unlock the next zone.
Aqua Lungers doesn’t have much else to it than that. It dives right into the action, providing the basic controls tutorial through in-game button prompts and some small gameplay tidbits prior to each level. That’s it. While I did appreciate the no-frills approach, the lack of motivation or in-game context does leave a little to be desired. Although, it’s possible that maybe it’s me who’s silly for trying to find context and motivation in a game about deep-sea divers in colored wetsuits harpooning sea monsters and hunting for buried treasure. Sometimes, a game doesn’t need more context than that but in the case of Aqua Lungers, I need a little more to keep going solo.
Manning the Harpoons
Similar to the core concept of Aqua Lungers, gameplay is very simple. Use the directional pad or analog stick to move around. B both jumps and swims faster while on land and in the water, respectively. Quick pressing Y will attack with your harpoon while holding down Y and releasing does a lunge attack. The X button deposits your found gold into your treasure chest and A uses any powerup weapons you have equipped which you can cycle through with the L and R buttons.
The controls, while simple, do the job well enough. Your lunger moves around each stage manically with your speed, agility, and jump height all lessened as your lunger carries more and more treasure. Since you can only carry a finite amount of treasure, you’ll need to deposit your cash periodically into your treasure chest all while avoiding enemies. Fish will cause you to drop your treasure while boss enemies can do that as well as kill you. Getting back to your chest without losing any precious sunken gold or getting eaten requires rapid presses of the B button and quick maneuvering of directional controls.
While most enemies besides the boss provide more nuisance than danger, each boss’s ability to insta-murder you coupled with some of the later stage’s hazards (including ones that also shop at One-Hit-Kill mart) can make for some frustrating enemy encounters. Bosses can one-hit kill you up close and often shoot out projectiles that follow you around the level. You do get some power ups that level the playing field a bit, but it’s often not enough to tip the scales of balance in your lunger’s favor. The bosses can even go on land! Unreal!
Your lunger can die 4 times after which all subsequent deaths will dip into your treasure reserve before you can respawn. With several of the bosses being equipped with homing projectiles and stage hazards seemingly acting like tracking missiles, I found myself ripping my hair out pretty early on with the single player difficulty. But single player is not Aqua Lungers strength, nor does it appear to be the intended method of play.
The More The Merrier
After being frustrated early on with the single player experience, it became very apparent that to get the full experience (and potentially the most enjoyment) out of Aqua Lungers, I needed to play multiplayer. Due to quarantine, only my wife was able to sit down and play with me which was nice as we rarely play competitive games together. I handed her the controller and it didn’t take long for her to grasp the controls and get to treasure hunting.
While we played, we both continued to die from the bosses and level hazards as much as I did during my solo experience. While adding the extra player created a more enjoyable experience, it only lessened the frustration slightly. The inclusion of more players adds to your lunger’s list of antagonists out to get your treasure and shove you into the mouth of an ill-mannered boss character. There is also an option for two lungers to compete on the same team which I did not get a chance to test during my playtime but I feel like this experience would have been far more enjoyable than the competitive game mode.
Beautiful Ocean Blues
Aqua Lungers is a great looking game in terms of animations and assets. Each zone type is uniquely themed providing every level with land and underwater designs that give variety among the different locales. From a beach cove to a desert oasis to an arctic ocean, each zone is unique if not a little standard stuff for video game level design but they are done well enough that you likely won’t mind how cliche the aesthetic choices are.
The art-style is where Aqua Lungers does really shine. The lungers, and their variety of color palettes, level backgrounds, and enemies all look great especially the bosses which are supremely detailed and well animated. Each boss is designed to be an almost kaiju-like version of a regular sea creature, like a walrus that shoots dozens of homing tusks, or a giant fire-spitting sea turtle. With how much love and attention to detail was given to the boss monsters, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the boss creatures were the primary design focus and the rest of the game was built around them.
While not terrible, the audio doesn’t do nearly the work of the visuals to enhance the experience. The different in-game sounds are suitable for hunting treasure, but nothing to write home about. The music in the game’s soundtrack is also adequate with each level having a techno-sounding theme that matches the frantic pace of the gameplay. Overall the OST provides a little variety but nothing you’ll want to rush to find on Spotify. Perfectly enjoyable for what it is, but not much more than that.
On Land and Under Sea
Performance in Aqua Lungers is fine. I did experience one or two glitchy moments where my lunger got stuck between the land and the sea. While I couldn’t escape for almost a minute and it was semi-annoying, this was a rarity during my playtime.
Performance also did not vary much between docked and handheld running at what feels like 60 FPS in both. Though, with Aqua Lungers being multiplayer focused, specifically local multiplayer (there is no online multiplayer) this will be a far better experience on the TV with 3 friends and some drinks than crowding even two people around a Switch in tabletop mode with some joycons. Though, regardless of your preference, Aqua Lungers will perform admirably for you in either.
Running Out of Air
In today’s world of gaming, multiplayer is a must. But a multiplayer focused title that only works locally with no online mode is a tough sell in post-Covid 2020, even for a console focused on local multiplayer like the Switch. The single player is anemic as it is literally just you playing by yourself with no human opponents and no gameplay variance. While visually it looks very nice the gameplay is fine, if not frustrating, there just isn’t much depth here unless you are able to plop down on a couch with 3 buddies for local co-op on the regular. Aqua Lungers is a fast, frantic game that can probably give you a few solid hours of fun with some friends and entertainment but not much else.
- Simple, easy to learn gameplay
- Simple premise
- Can be a fun local multiplayer experience
- One-hit kill bosses are frustrating
- No online multiplayer
- Single player experience is vapid
Aqua Lungers will probably provide a fantastic couple of hours for you and 3 buddies on your couch, but you will likely forget about it when it’s time to play solo.