Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender DX Review

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Title: Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender DX
Developer: Tikipod
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 154 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

When you think of PlayStation Mobile, you can think of them like the Indie game market.  If Indie games have small budgets compared to bigger games from companies like Namco Bandai, Square Enix, and Ubisoft, then PlayStation Mobile has small budgets compared to Indie developers.  PlayStation Mobile has many games that are made just by a single person.  Some of the games have teams that are that small.  Though, that doesn’t mean PSM is irrelevant.  There are many a gem within it, some that have expanded beyond the scope of just PSM.

When PS Mobile first launched, there was one game that was highly praised on it.  Enough that the game got taken from PS Mobile and ported to PC’s in the form of a Steam game.  That game was called Aqua Kitty, which was a small horizontal shoot-em-up game.  Not stopping there, it received praise on PC as well, moving further up the chain, despite being a very small indie title.  And it’s still going, even this week.  It’s spanning to new horizons, both in the handheld and console world.

As of this week, Aqua Kitty has gotten what’s called a “DX” version.  This is their name for an expanded release of the game.  The developer has thrown in some new content of the game and is not only releasing it as a fully-fledged PS Vita title, but also as a PS4 title.  Packing new content, bosses, game modes and more, here is our official review of the cross-buy game, Aqua Kitty DX – Milk Mine Defender!

Story

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The story of Aqua Kitty takes place in the near future.  When all sources of milk in the world are extinguished, the cat population is without any milk to drink and be sustained by.  In response to this, a global search is underway, looking for new sources of milk.  In their search, they find what seems to be rich sources of full fat milk at the bottom of the ocean.  Taking ships and submarines, they set out to mine this source to save the cat population, unknowingly attracting the wrath of mechanical fish monsters.

The story of Aqua Kitty is really cute.  The way it’s portrayed to set up the game can really make you smile.  It’s silly, wacky, and really out there, but at the same time, every time I look at the story screen before the title menu, I can’t help but smile.  It’s nothing super-deep or anything, but it’s something that any cat lover can get some chuckles out of.

Gameplay

Aqua Kitty DX, like the original game, is a horizontal shoot-em-up game.  Over the course of the game, in stages, you will be directing a submarine on a horizontal game to fend off enemies, defend your miners, collect power-ups, and fighting powerful bosses.  In direct comparison, it plays similar to the old Atari game, Defender.  The same premise is there between the two games, despite them being decades apart and having different themes behind them.

Within the game, there are three different game modes you can play through: Easy, Normal, and Arcade.  All three of these game modes has you progressing through the game’s 25 stages to defend your miners and fend off enemies and bosses.  However, only Normal Mode was present in the original.  Easy and Arcade are both new to the DX version of the game.  Easy Mode, as it sounds, is the game with an easier difficulty setting.

Arcade Mode is the new mode for the game, which adds a twist.  In Arcade Mode, you don’t have unlimited lives as you play through the campaign.  In this, you play until you are knocked out.  This is challenging and frustrating.  If you manage to make it to stage 15 and get killed, you get to start over from stage 1 again.  An added bonus to this is that, as you collect money, you can customize by buying power-ups, something that you cannot do in the Normal and Easy Modes.

Playing through each stage has you in a large 2D underwater plane, where you move your submarine around to knock out enemies and defend your miners.  You have free roam around the plane at any point in time, unlike the horizontal shoot-em-up Flying Hamster HD, which had the camera constantly moving.  As you have free roam, you are tasked with gunning down enemies with your submarine’s onboard weapons, including a normal blaster that never runs out of ammo, and a “super” gun that has ammo that regenerates over time.

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The game doesn’t do much to tell you what to do, other than what buttons do what on the load screens.  But your main task is to make sure the pink jellyfish enemies don’t swoop down and steal your miners.  They’re marked on your map in red, so you always know when they’re around.  Although you do have to clear every enemy from each wave that comes at you, your biggest task is to keep your miners from being stolen, as you will get a game over if they all are taken, whether you have health left or not.  The level will end in victory if you can knock out every enemy on the map and not lose all of your cats, with your score being higher the fewer cats you lose.

As you progress further in the game, things get more technical, with power-ups appearing as well as larger numbers of enemies, different types of enemies, and bosses to fight while still managing to keep your miners from being abducted.  At the later points in the game, it requires a lot of on-the-spot thinking of where the boss is, where your miners are, and making sure you are keeping them safe while gunning down a boss at the same time.  It can get very hard in this manner, even in the Easy difficulty.

Apart from clearing the 45 stages, there isn’t much to do in the game.  Each stage is pretty short, only lasting a few minutes each, lending one sitting through the entire game in a single game mode being as short as 3-4 hours.  However, expect your first trek through the game to be at least 5-6 hours, given the learning curve and re-doing some of the harder stages, especially the new bosses they’ve thrown into the game.  It’s much longer than 90% of the PS Mobile library, for sure, though isn’t a particularly long game.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t going to be very hard to do.  First of all, there aren’t any mandatory touch controls you have to worry about.  You will be using the PS Vita’s buttons to control the game, whether you’re in a menu or in the middle of gunning down enemies in the ocean.  You also won’t be using near all of the buttons on the system when you play the game, either.  The Right Analog Stick has no use in this game.

Controlling your submarine will be done either with the D-Pad or Left Analog Stick to move left, right, up, and down.  You can also use the L or R buttons to be able to turn around and change the direction you’re facing to gun down enemies behind you when you don’t have a power-up enabled.  The rest of the game will be controlled with the X and Square buttons.  The X button will be used to fire your main weapon, and Square is used to fire your power-up weapon that recharges.  Aside from these, that’s pretty much the same, and the controls are no different on the PlayStation TV.

With this in mind, the controls are pretty simple.  However, the only issue is that the game doesn’t do a good job of telling you how to do these things.  Unless you look at and remember the loading screens, you won’t know what does what.  It will be on you to figure it out, just as it’s your job to figure out what to do in the game from its lack of tutorial.

Presentation

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Visually, Aqua Kitty is a 2D game with hand-drawn sprites thrown into the game.  None of the effects or anything are in 3D, so don’t expect a game that is going to dazzle you with special 3D effects.  The effects it does have look crisp and smooth, though, from the characters to the enemies to the explosions when certain effects go off.  The game does have a bit of pixilation, but you can tell that, given the game’s style, it’s supposed to look that way, for a retro feel.

The game runs well, for the most part.  The load times are short, though I did experience some lag in a few of the stages, as I played through the game.  It didn’t last long enough to be a huge annoyance, but it did happen a few times.  Each time, it lasted maybe a few seconds and then went away.  It’s something there that you should think about, should it happen and you have to adjust your flow of button-pressing to the few seconds of slower gameplay.

Summary

All in all, Aqua Kitty DX is the same as it was before, but with new stuff added in.  Although the game does have some lag issues to be worked out and doesn’t last incredibly long, it’s a good shoot-em-up game that has a cute story and fun gameplay to go with it.

8/10

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