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I tried my hardest to come into Hydrophobia Pure, the new “extensive” update for the XBLA game Hydrophobia, with an open mind. I wanted it to fix all of Hydrophobia’s issues but I had my doubts that it would succeed. After spending a few hours with Hydrophobia Pure, I’ve realized one thing; some parts of a game cannot be fixed through just an update.
The developers, Dark Energy Digital, promised many new things in this update and they delivered. The new cover system is great. It’s fast, easy to handle, and tremendously better than the old cover in Hydrophobia. What they didn’t change is the combat itself. For example, it still takes way too many shots to take a Malthusian down. I understand that they had a different idea with the whole “the way to kill these enemies is by waiting for them to get close to an explosive canister then using the canister to kill them” but that’s not fun and Hydrophobia would’ve benefitted greatly by the removal of their kind of combat altogether.
Another huge issue was the controls, which have almost been completely revamped. Jumping is now mapped to the A button and shooting is on the triggers. The jumping is possibly the most significant as the platforming has been mostly redone. The animations still look laughable at times but Kate is now much stickier when leaping onto platforms which eliminates many of the killer platforming deaths in the original Hydrophobia.
One of the unfixable things I mentioned previously is the pacing. They did add one or two more puzzles into the mix but the entire second act remains based solely off of “find the key, find the cipher, open door.” While finding the ciphers and keys is now drastically easier, the process of completing the entire second act remains as monotonous as ever. And on top of that, exploring the ship is still very bland. I understand it would be impossible to fix the story in a patch but that doesn’t make the lazy story forgivable in any way. There is a slight bit of potential to be spotted in the story which is nice but the actual execution is as boring as staring at a blank screen.
If you read my original Hydrophobia review, you’d know that I absolutely loathed the Scoot character. You may be wondering if they change anything, like maybe, take him out of the game completely? The answer is sadly no. He’s annoying as ever and constantly makes me want to find the voice actor and slap him. When I say I want them to completely remove him from the game, I’m not kidding. I understand it would make Kate’s many back and forth’s between Scoot and her unlistenable but that’s better than hearing Scoot at all. I would’ve loved Hydrophobia much more if Dark Energy Digital would have simply just removed every bit of voice work from the game so all you could hear was the water. Which looks even better than it used to, though it has always been some pretty damn good looking water.
I commend Dark Energy Digital for trying to make Hydrophobia a decent game but in the state it was in, that was impossible. They did almost everything they could possibly do, and fully came through on all of their promises. It looks a bit better, platforming is easier, and the controls are actually okay. But on the other hand, the story is still largely uninspired, the pacing is tiring at times, and Scoot still exists. Dark Energy Digital has made a terrible game merely playable. But they’ve also made me interested to see what they could do with a Hydrophobia 2 which, if this is any example of the changes they can make, should be pretty impressive.