Hydrophobia Prophecy is what developer Dark Energy Digital likes to call a “Comprehensive Reinvention” of their initial release of the game “Hydrophobia” (or Hydrophobia Pure after the patch that was released to correct some issues) on the Xbox 360 on September 29th, 2010. Although it was met with some mixed reactions from critics, it still managed to gain a fan following. We first caught wind of this “reinvention” of Hydrophobia back in April of this year. Dark Energy Digital stated that they listened to the fans of the first title and took every bit of information into consideration and made it their mission to improve the areas of the game that were issues. Now, nearly 14 months after the first game was released, Hydrophobia Prophecy for the Playstation 3 and PC has been released and we finally get the opportunity to find out if it can live up to the promises that were made or will it drown itself in unmet expectations? Read more to find out.
Hydrophobia Prophecy puts players in control of Kate Wilson, a systems engineer aboard “The Queen of the World”, a floating city that was created to allow the richest and most powerful people prosper as the rest of the world is doomed because of their own over-populating. Shortly after the game begins, things take a turn for the worse when the ship is attacked by a group of terrorists known as the Malthusians. The Malthusians derived their name from the political/economic thought of Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, who described the potential issues the human race would face due to overpopulation. How the population would double (example: 1 becomes 2, 2 becomes 4, 4 becomes 8, etc.) and the worlds resources and food supply would remain linear. (1 becomes 2, 2 become 3, 3 becomes 4, etc.) The Malthusians made it their duty to make those aboard “The Queen of the World” to suffer like the rest of the world and they somehow believe that they are doing the world a favor by their actions. You can think of the Malthusians as a very “pissed off” version of Green Peace.
Hydrophobia Prophecy is about 5 to 6 hours long across 3 acts, although the action doesn’t really kick into high gear until just before the 3rd act. The first 2 acts seem to focus more on the platform and puzzle aspects of the game, but that’s not to say that there isn’t any fire fights on your journey trudging through the water. (Somehow that just seems a little weird to say) You will find yourself trying not to drown while you move from area to area and solving puzzles that hinder your progression until you figure out what to do. Many of the puzzles and platform areas have obvious solutions while others may force you to think about a little while longer. Aside from the campaign, there is a challenge room that pits you in a 3-tiered arena. You will face progressively tougher enemies across 5 levels and with each level you are given 5 minutes to wipe out all of the enemies. I personally cannot fathom why anyone would need more than 2 minutes to kill the handful of enemies that are thrown your way. I stayed behind cover in one of the corners of the room’s second floor and was able to wipe them out in less than 2 minutes. The challenge room is far from being just that: Challenging. When I first learned of the challenge room, I was expecting some really intricate puzzles that needed to be solved. I was sorely disappointed once I learned what it was. It can be good for a few good cheap laughs at your enemies’ expense, but that’s about it. Although it does give you an easy silver trophy just for spending 10 minutes with the challenge room. (Well, beating the challenge room I should say)
Although this next feature was in Hydrophobia Pure for the 360, this feature made me smile when I saw it. When you “pause” the game, there is an option in the pause menu that brings you to a feedback form that you can fill out and submit to Dark Energy Digital, who stated that this very feature is what made them make a lot of enhancements and improvements from the 360 version, based off the feedback that they received alone. Dark Energy has also stated that they plan to continue to listen to the fans to help make future improvements.
(Gameplay & AI)
Imagine Metal Gear Solid franchise stripped of everything that made it what it is, now include acrobatics, climbing and a lot of water and you end up with a pretty accurate description of Hydrophobia Prophecy. The game takes place in the third person view and will go into first person view when you activate your “Mavi”. The Mavi is this cool little device that resembles what you would get if you could get an iPad and an infrared water temperature sensor to successfully mate. With it, you are able to see things that you would not be able to see with the naked eye. Mundane things like graffiti that say things like “Kill Yourself” which holds very little to the game, other than sort of a taunt by the Malthusians. But aside from that you can also see important encrypted messages that your Mavi will encode to help you progress through the levels. The Mavi also has the ability to help you to “hack” specific devices to help you progress. Once a hack is initiated; you are given a mini game puzzle to solve. The mini game puzzle tasks you with matching the frequency wave of the device within about 20 to 30 seconds. You control the wavelength of your hack with the” L” and “R” sticks to match the waves. Once the waves are matched, you have to maintain the shape long enough for the Mavi to do it’s magic.
Eventually (before you actually encounter enemies) you find a weapon, this is the only weapon that you have during the game. Although there are 5 different types of ammo, you have your default and unlimited stun rounds to start out with. Sooner or later you will find the other types of ammo: Semi-Auto, Rapid (Auto), Explosive Gel and Energy. (Basically a small device is discharged from your guns chamber that electrocutes its target and anything nearby)I have not seen a reason to switch ammo types to be frank; I’ve only changed ammo types when the game has told me to. Your stun rounds get the job done just as well and with a charged shot, can get the job done better.
There were a lot of changes and enhancements to the combat system that were much needed from its Xbox 360 release over a year ago. If you never played that version, you will not notice the differences in the combat systems. The cover system could still use a little more refining. I’ve had issues where my character didn’t want to move away from the cover in some of the most unfortunate times.
The AI of the enemies is mediocre at best. They will seek out cover to hide behind, but you will probably end up shooting them before they can reach it considering that they move slowly as if they are dragging an anchor behind them. I have had moments where I have snuck up behind an enemy and have literally gotten close enough to breathe down his neck without him even knowing I was there. So that proves that they can only detect what’s directly in front of them.
(Sound & Visuals)
One of the changes that were made was some re-casting in the voice acting. Scoot, who acts as Kate’s support was one of the characters that were hit with the voice re-casting and a body character model change. I didn’t particularly care that there was a voice talent recast because I never had an issue with the voice talent. There have been some improvements in the graphics over its predecessor. The lighting and shadowing effects, anti-aliasing and texture resolution has improved over the 360 version of this game. The water seems to react a little more fluid-like and is a little bit more believable. But an issue that makes the water seem unrealistic is the fact that the water has no effect on Kate or any other enemies clothing. All characters do react to the water appropriately when they walk. The higher the water level is the harder it is to maneuver and also makes it possible to be swept off of your feet. This action can be instrumental in combat. (The water itself can be used as a weapon of sorts) As for the audio, the sound effects and the music sounds a little bit better than what was heard on the 360’s version of this game. But, again, these changes mean very little to people who did not experience this game on the 360. They can only take comfort in the fact that there was an improvement.
(Conclusion & Thoughts)
For the most part, Hydrophobia Prophecy is a decent game with some flaws. It’s not Metal Gear Solid, but with a lot more work, it could be a great franchise. I hope that Dark Energy Digital do what they did through the Darknet and use that feedback that they receive to make more improvements. One of the biggest pluses to this game is that it stars a female character in the lead protagonist role. She’s not whiny and she doesn’t rely on someone else to do all the dirty work. For the price of $10, I will say that Hydrophobia Prophecy is worth the money, especially if you can look past some of the remaining flaws. Dark Energy Digital chose a reasonable price point because if this game was $15, I would not be saying the same thing.
3.75 out of 5
A good game with some flaws, but is still worth it’s price point
A lot of improvements were made from its previous iteration of the game.
Reasonable price point
Strong female protagonist
Uninspired story and short story mode
Not so challenging Challenge Room
The cover system can be a little wonky at times