October 10, 2010

Treading Water

Lasting First Impressions of “Hydrophobia” from Dark Energy Digital

I was first introduced to Hydrophobia at PAX East in March, 2010. Although I did not play the game, I was intrigued by what I saw and it quickly made it onto my short list of anticipated titles soon to be released. Dark Energy Digital has spent the last three years developing their HydroEngine specifically for this game. This engine was designed to give the unique characteristics to flowing water never before seen in video games. This seemed exciting and I couldn’t wait to sit down and actually play the game.

The game was released to XBLA on September 29th and I immediately queued up the game and downloaded it. You play the role of Kate Wilson, a systems engineer aboard the Queen of the World, a sort of ‘floating city’ in the mid-21st century. After playing through the obligatory introduction scene that sets up the characters and location, you are soon thrust into the survival thriller after a bombing takes place on the ship and you are forced to try to escape as the ship quickly begins flooding with water.

Speed is key in many scenes in this game as water is filling each room or elevators are threatening to fall as you try to climb the shaft. Jumping from ledge to ledge or climbing from outcropping to outcropping is lifted right out of the Tomb Raider games. Those of you who have played that style of game will be readily familiar with the type of gameplay found in Hydrophobia.

Unfortunately, I found the gameplay and the visuals in this game to be somewhat lacking. While the water effects were brilliant, it seems that more effort went into the HydroEngine than into anything else in the game. As I was playing the game I found myself thinking the graphics seemed jagged and outdated and just not what I would expect from a AAA title these days.

The controls were extremely loose and I found myself, on several occasions, completely overshooting my position or not being able to line up the character to where I wanted her to be. I simply felt like I didn’t have a solid control over her. Even the button layout seemed unnatural. While most games map the A button to the jump command, in this case, it’s the Y Button. Having to relearn what has been thoroughly engrained in our minds from other games, for a game that requires quick thinking and fast moving, just doesn’t bode well for success.

Hydrophobia is available now for 1200 Microsoft points (about $15) but, for that price, it just doesn’t live up to my original excitement for this game.

Dark Energy Digital, I gave you an hour, unfortunately I’m NOT IMPRESSED.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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  1. Kevin Dorff

    Completely agree. I had such high hopes. The poor jump controls (among others) left me frustrated, dieing in places where I shouldn’t. Ultimately I didn’t even complete the demo because I didn’t feel like fighting the controls any longer.

  2. I’m surprised you were unimpressed with the first hour. My experience playing the early parts were always enjoyable and I was always blown away by the water effects. It’s not until the game goes on that I started to notice the faults. Good eye.

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