Aquaman?! You’re kiddin’, right?
With only a few cool comic book superhero movies and games released lately, you’d imagine it would take a certain “it” factor to be immortalized. Take Superman, for instance. He was so cool, they made him the star of movies, a TV series, a number of cartoons and toys, and a couple of video games. Batman is cool. Spiderman is definitely cool. These are examples of heroes we are all familiar with and grew up loving. But to be well-known, you do have to have that “it” factor, right? Evidently, that’s not the case. In from the depths of the coral and plankton comes Aquaman, defender of…fish and underwater stuff.
The only reason why this game isn’t a letdown is because, well, no one was really looking forward to it in the first place.
You play Aquaman, the king of the underwater metropolis that is Atlantis. Your flourishing city is suddenly attacked by the evil Black Manta and the fate of Atlantis lies in your hands. Sooner or later, you realize that the Black Manta is only one of many enemies that you will have to face. You, as Aquaman, must defend your city and throne against the forces of evil that threaten them! Stan Lee, eat your heart out.
You swim from point to point and fight your way to the end of the stage. Those are the general gameplay mechanics of Aquaman. At the beginning of the game, Aquaman will have a list of attacks and combos at his disposal, and as you progress in the game, he learns additional maneuvers. We’ve all been there and done that, and you’ll sit through the same redundant drivel stage by stage.
As for the fighting, you simply won’t find a sadder attempt at combat simulation anywhere else. You can’t really tell when an enemy is going to throw an attack; he just does it, so there’s no real strategy involved. Eventually, the game turns into a contest of who can hit who first. Also, the combos are long, tough-to-remember button-slammers that won’t even work half the time. It won’t be long before you find yourself memorizing the few special moves and faking the rest. Overall, the fighting is dry and has absolutely no depth.
Along with Aquaman’s regular fighting techniques, he can, of course, use his signature power: the ability to summon the help of underwater sea creatures. With a push of the Z button, Aquaman can call on a variety of sea life for support. Which animal will come to your aid depends on how far along in the game you are. A few different types of sharks make an appearance and even the ever-so-dreadful dolphin will lend a hand. Wow. That sure beats web-slinging any day, doesn’t it?
The submarine battles are halfway decent, although at times the fighting can be very congested. There’s your sub, a million other subs, and something huge on each stage that you either have to defend or destroy. This can get dull quickly, too, as there isn’t much you can do besides hit the throttle, shoot beams, and fire torpedoes. After that, it’s a hunt to reload your munitions before you get your battleship sunk. This would have made a pretty good minigame…if it were on a cell phone.
The enemies you face are just as repetitive in each level you explore. The game case proudly advertises eleven different enemy types. Eleven? I can name more than eleven different enemies in Super Mario Bros., so that should tell you a lot about the fighting experience that this game has to offer. There are only twenty-one levels of action, and most of these stages are too quick and easy. It won't take an experienced gamer very long to wing his or her way through this game.
Graphics, Sound, and Animation
Aquaman is a real mess in the graphics area. Though the game is fairly colorful, the textures seem thrown together with little or no effort. Aquaman himself has a look that would make Kiefer Sutherland stop acting out fear of constantly being asked, “Hey, you've never starred as Aquaman, have you?”
Aquaman’s empty environment is surrounded by gray haze that won’t materialize into an underwater civilization until he swims close enough to it. There is no sea floor in Atlantis, and nothing moves. No other mermen floating around, no fish, no nothing. It’s just you and the enemies you face.
Sound? Aquaman does not give me much to work with here. All you’ll hear throughout this entire game is attack thuds, your submarine, and water bubbles. Blend that in with some morose underwater music and you got yourself a real dull pain in the eardrums. On top of that, there are absolutely no voiceovers in this game, which leads me to believe that any actors TDK may have pursued probably laughed at the thought of working on this game. Good on’em. So, the player will be stuck reading the storyline from a comic book storyboard in between stages as opposed to having the luxury of a lifelike cinematic. And even those look like garbage.
While we’re on the subject of cinematics, if you do plan on playing this game, don’t get your hopes up for anything more than playing. You will not come across a single cut-scene throughout the entire game. As far as the in-game animation goes, the only objects you’ll see moving are Aquaman, his enemies, and the fish friends he calls upon. That’s it. You’d think for a thriving underwater kingdom such as the fabled Atlantis, which is supposedly under heavy attack, there would be some other commotion going on, right?
The “rock’em sock’em” robotic fighting animation is terrible and will leave you wondering why TDK even went in this direction. The only place where the animation flows smoothly is when Aquaman is swimming from place to place. He does have some graceful swimming movements, and even his mullet flows in the water. Too bad that's not enough to save the game from getting slammed.
For a game based on a comic book “hero”, the presentation is as lame as the “hero” himself. Believe me, you are not going to have a more boring time in your gaming life. Well, anytime soon, that is.
If there’s no play value, then there’s definitely no replay value. Once you run yourself through the garbage disposal once, there’s no need for a redo. There are a few unlockables you can strive for, if you’re motivated. Once you beat the game, you can play as Black Manta (who?), Tempest (who?), and Classic Aquaman (why?). Don’t waste your time.
I will say one thing about TDK and Aquaman: The comic book character is unbearably pitiful and TDK managed to translate that perfectly into a just-as-pitiful game. Lucky Games is a no-name license, and TDK should hang up video gaming and stick to manufacturing blank audio and VHS cassettes like before. And don’t let that twenty-dollar price tag entice you; Aquaman is nowhere near worth it. Let’s face it: there isn’t a single inkling of coolness in Aquaman, so this was basically a wasted effort.
If they’re willing to go this far with Aquaman, they may as well make a Space Ghost game, too. At least he has some cool factor.