When a new console's released, everyone gets excited about the launch games. Indeed they usually get much higher scores than they otherwise would, just because there's nothing to compare them with. Months later, they're forgotten as more exciting and better developed titles become available.
Maybe that will be the situation with Art Style: CODE, a game I really enjoyed and gave high marks to. It's much harder to get excited about its companion in the Art Style series though.
Art Style: AQUITE (released as AQUIA in the US), is another simple to play, hard to master puzzle game that boasts nice background graphics (a little bit like Electroplankton) but not a vast amount of modes or other content. Well, it does only cost 500 Nintendo Points (£4.50, $5 or €5).
The basic set up is there's a column of coloured blocks under the sea. You control various configurations of blocks that you can move up and down the column (using the D-pad, this game doesn't use the stylus at all), and shift into.
Of course, as you insert your blocks horizontally in one side, you force out a similar set of blocks from the other side. This becomes the next set you can rotate (you don't actually rotate the blocks, only their positions within the block) and move up and down the column.
In this manner, you manipulate blocks to create sets of three or more of the same colour. And in the manner of puzzle games the world over, once three or more coloured blocks are created, they will disappear. If you're quick, while they are flashing, you can chain together additional blocks for extra points too. More blocks will rise up from the bottom of the screen to replace any you remove.
To create some sort of abstract goal, alongside the column a little diver swims downwards. Making the blocks disappear keeps him supplied with air or somesuch. It fits into the game's overall concept but the diver is a conceit as you don't notice him and he doesn't do anything. In that sense, he's just another McGuffin.
Something that does matter however is the darkness that slowly descends from the top of the screen. Eventually this makes it impossible to see what blocks are where. When the darkness reaches the bottom of the screen, it's game over.
That's Art Style: AQUITE's set up.
It doesn't sound very interesting, and to be honest, it's not very interesting to play either. There are two modes. Interval Dive has you getting your diver to a certain depth, when another puzzle element (Part 2) comes into play. This sees you manipulating a special set of blocks to recreate a muddled up pattern. The game then saves, and you choose a deeper interval to conquer.
The other mode is Endless, which is exactly what you'd expect it to be. Finally, as you progress though the game, you unlock short videos of various undersea creatures in the Aquarium section. Nice but not fascinating.
And that's also our general conclusion about the game. It's almost as if the developers Skip did most of the work and then got bored.
The block colours are dull; blues, dark browns and greys. There are only three configurations of blocks (1 x 2, 2 x 1, and 2 x 2). Each are a bit different to play - certainly the 2 x 2 forces a rethink in playing style - but you're basically collecting blocks of similar colours to insert in the right places in the column, or manipulating them within the column.
To be fair, there are a couple of special blocks. The blocks containing a diagonal line can't be matched up in their original state. But when a colour match of adjacent blocks is created, they will all turn into that particular colour, and hence usually, in turn, disappear; acting like smartbombs. You can also match flashing item blocks to lift the descending darkness back to the top of the screen.
Frankly though, I found the entire experience faintly dreary, which is strange if you consider how relatively exciting Namco made this sort of situation with Mr Driller. It's also an underground based game (more action that puzzler sure) but is colourful and contains a great little character, who you care about, especially when he starts to run out of air.Art Style: AQUITE, however, feels lifeless and without much soul.