Aqua (video game)

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Aqua gamecover.png
Developer(s) Games Distillery
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios
Platform(s) Xbox 360 (XBLA), Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) Xbox 360
May 19, 2010
Microsoft Windows
May 26, 2011
Genre(s) Action shooter
Mode(s) Single-player,
Local multiplayer
Distribution Digital distribution

Aqua (also known as Aqua - Naval Warfare) is an arcade-action shooter with tactical elements, driven by a steampunk story in which the vast majority of the world is covered with water. Aqua was developed by Games Distillery on their own proprietary engine and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It was released for the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade on May 19, 2010. The game is set in an alternate reality where most of the Earth is covered with water and factions war for the remaining pieces of land.

The game received mixed reception from reviewers. Aggregate websites GameRankings and Metacritic report average scores of 66.23% and 61/100, respectively. Critics gave high praise to the game's hand-drawn cutscenes and steampunk setting. Gameplay was received to mixed commentary among reviewers. Critics praised the game's length and some also praised Aqua for attempting to do more than typical twin-stick shooters, but others expressed disappointment in the number of escort missions and lack of online multiplayer.


Aqua is set in an alternate reality in which almost the entire surface of the planet is covered with water.

After a global cataclysmal event, the world is flooded, continents have disappeared, and little landscape remains above water level. The few remaining survivors quickly form nations and forge empires to control the vast oceanic territories and the little remaining land. Captain Benjamin Grey of the Emperean Empire, the game's protagonist, is considered by many a war hero in the recent war against the Samureans.[1]

The game begins as Grey and engineer Polly Edison discover the Gothean air force is heading for the Emperean headquarters. Grey fights his way through a Samurean base now swarmed with corsairs ravaging its contents. He finally arrives at headquarters only to find it under heavy siege by some serious Gothean strike force. Grey and company escape with some survivors from the base.[1]

After desperate attempts to strike at the heart of the Gotheans, Grey and Edison discover a secret power, personified by a character named Cerbera. The two characters must cross borders with their own side, facing diffidence and disdain of the Emperean Empire itself. They manage to reveal the truth about the conspiracy against the entire world and finally crush Cerbera's greatest agent. In the closing sequence an escape module is shown fleeing from smoldering ruins of the battle, indicating an open end in the story.[1]


In Aqua, the player commands an elite vessel to navigate a world filled with vast seas and scattered isles. The game world is seen from a bird's eye perspective with the camera tightly following the player's ship. The player navigates the ship with the left analog stick and fires their primary weapons with the right stick.[2] Several types of weaponry can be assigned as the primary weapons, including machine guns. Also at the player's disposal are mines and several types of torpedoes.[2] In addition to various guns, the player can also equip their ships with diverse upgrades. These items enhance different attributes of the player's ship such as weapon damage, ship endurance, speed, and maneuverability. In combination with various guns and upgrades, the player can configure multiple setups to create their own unique play style.[2] The player's vessel is equipped with a special weapon which can be used once the player collects enough Aquaflux; energy collected from destroyed enemies. The player can also employ AI controlled squads of elite watercraft, giving them various context orders to influence the outcome of battles.[2]

The game features several play modes. The campaign consists of nine missions, and is driven via in game cinematics and hand drawn motion comic sequences between missions. Later in the campaign, the player can usually choose from three types of ships to control; Speedboats, Cruisers, and Gunships. Each vessel features unique attributes and abilities.[2] The second single player mode, Skirmish, has the player withstand an infinite number of enemy waves with increasing difficulty, and to reach the highest score possible. Local multiplayer is also supported, with two game modes. Arena is similar to Skirmish except two players work cooperatively to defeat endless enemy waves. Chase as a variation on a simple race game mode. Players attempt to obtain a higher score than their opponent by reaching checkpoints which randomly appear in the level and by destroying neutral vessels.[2]


Aqua was developed by Games Distillery. It began as a simple project with basic gameplay in mind; a shooter game set on water. The developers further felt that Aqua should be more or less a free world to navigate, with specific goals defined by a story. The team began with a basic prototype, which served as a basis for gameplay.[3] The team then brainstormed and created various features and prototype missions from which the actual levels were built. The team were required to change several gameplay elements following the game's first testing session. Many features and mission bits were changed, cut or completely redesigned.[3] The game was publicly announced on April 9, 2010 with Microsoft Game Studios signed to publish the game in the summer of 2010.[4] Multiple trailers were subsequently released. Aqua was released on May 19, 2010 for the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade.[5]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 66.23%[6]
Metacritic 61/100[7]
Review scores
Publication Score B[8]
Edge 3/10[9]
Eurogamer 7/10[10]
GameSpot 5.5/10[11]
IGN 5.5/10[12]
Official Xbox Magazine 7/10[13]

Aqua received mixed reception from critics. It holds a score of 66.23% at GameRankings and 61/100 at Metacritic, two aggregate score websites.[6][7] Individual review scores vary greatly. The lowest score came from Edge magazine with a 30% approval rating.[9] The highest score came from Jason Flick of Game Chronicles with an 89% approval rating.[14] As of January 1, 2011 the game has sold over 8,300 copies.[15] Year-end 2011 sales analyses showed that the game has moved over 31,000 units.[16]

Most critics gave high marks in regards to the game's setting and visual style. Brett Todd of GameSpot felt Aqua had a "unique and atmospheric steampunk-at-sea setting."[11] Eurogamer's Kristan Reed praised the "beautiful hand-drawn cut scenes."[10] Eric Neigher, reviewer for also felt the hand-drawn cutscenes were of high quality.[8] Multiple reviewers compared the setting to the film Waterworld.[10][17] Tyler Cameron of XBLA Fans also commented on the strong visual water effects.[17] Ryan Clements of IGN felt that not enough time was spent to explain the setting of Aqua and its characters.[12]

The game received mixed commentary in regards to gameplay. The reviewer for Official Xbox Magazine noted that its "combat and controls are quite good, and yet it feels a bit sleepy."[13] IGN's Ryan Clements felt that the game's escort missions were frustrating and hurt the pace of the game.[12] GameSpot's Brett Todd agreed and also expressed disappointment with the lack of online multiplayer.[11] Tyler Cameron of XBLA Fans also noted frustration with Aqua's escort missions but lauded the campaign length. "Most XBLA titles are short and can often be finished in a day [...] Aqua’s campaign feels appropriate for the price, and doesn’t overstay its welcome."[17] Cameron further noted that the game's replay value is extended by hidden items and other features to discover in the campaign.[17]'s Eric Neigher appreciated the game's basic gameplay. He called it a "simple game with a lot of simple fun to be had."[12] Eurogamer's Kristan Reed gave high remarks in regards to Aqua's customization and upgrade system which when combined with the game's story gives Aqua "a personality of its own."[10] GameZone's David Sanchez gave the PC version a 4.5 out of 10. He stated "Naval Warfare shouldn’t take you too long to play through. But because the game gets boring so fast, you’re not going to want to finish the entire adventure. The game has some redeeming qualities in its Skirmish and multiplayer modes, but these are short-lived."[18]


  1. ^ a b c Games Distillery (2010-05-19). Aqua. Microsoft Game Studios. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Mitchell, Richard (2010-05-19). "X3F TV -- XBLA in Brief: Metal Slug XX, Aqua". Joystiq. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  3. ^ a b "Aqua". Games Distillery via Facebook. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  4. ^ "Games Distillery runs full steam ahead". Gamasutra. 2010-04-09. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  5. ^ McWhertor, Michael (2010-05-17). "Metal Slug XX & Aqua Double Up The Shooting Action On Live Arcade This Week". Kotaku. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  6. ^ a b "Aqua for Xbox 360 - GameRankings". GameRankings. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  7. ^ a b "Aqua for Xbox 360 Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  8. ^ a b Neigher, Eric (2010-05-25). "Aqua: Naval Warfare Review". Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  9. ^ a b "Edge" (August 2010)
  10. ^ a b c d Reed, Kristan (2010-05-28). "Download Games Roundup - Aqua". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  11. ^ a b c Todd, Brett (2010-05-27). "Aqua Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  12. ^ a b c d Clements, Ryan (2010-05-20). "Aqua Review". IGN. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  13. ^ a b "Official Xbox Magazine" (August 2010)
  14. ^ Flick, Jason (2010-06-16). "Review: Aqua - Naval Warfare". Game Chronicles. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  15. ^ Langley, Ryan (2011-01-28). "XBLA: In-Depth: Xbox Live Arcade Sales Analysis For All Of 2010". Gamerbytes. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  16. ^ Langley, Ryan (2012-01-20). "Xbox Live Arcade by the numbers - the 2011 year in review". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  17. ^ a b c d Cameron, Tyler (2010-07-10). "Aqua: Naval Warfare XBLA Review". XBLA Fans. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  18. ^ Sanchez, David (2011-06-19). "Naval Warfare review". GameZone. Retrieved 2011-06-23. 

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