An original take on the match-three puzzle genre that is very challenging but ultimately unfulfilling.
Art Style: Aquia is one of the first original DSiWare titles and the latest in the Art Style series. Developed by Skip Ltd., Aquia is a unique and atmospheric puzzle game with an underwater theme. It also happens to be brutally hard.
The game's premise involves a deep sea diver who is swimming to a goal. The player must get this diver to the goal by playing a match-three puzzle game. The game area features a large two-screen column that is three blocks wide and comprised of different-colored blocks. The player must flip and insert two or four-block pieces (depending on the difficulty) into the sides of the column in order to make a match. Whenever a piece is inserted, an equal number of blocks are pushed out the opposite side, creating the next piece.
The player's goal is to make enough matches to get the diver to the goal, which is shown on the right side of the screen. He slowly advances as you make more matches, and he takes longer to finish in the later levels. As you make more matches, more blocks come in from the bottom to fill in the empty spaces. Going against the player is the diver's air supply, which is shown by darkness that slowly goes down the screen as time passes. Air can be recovered by matching three highlighted blocks, but these special blocks only appear after you have made several matches.
The different difficulty settings aren't labeled easy, medium, and hard; rather, they are represented by different piece shapes that are inserted into the column. The easiest difficulty is two vertical blocks, the next step up is two horizontal blocks, and the hardest mode is a square of four blocks. There are ten levels for each mode, but disappointingly, the game only records the quickest time taken to complete each level and the highest chain you got. There is also an endless mode that tracks how deep you dive into the sea.
Aquia has an extremely steep learning curve. Being a unique puzzle game, it is very difficult to acclimate to and it isn't too forgiving. The later levels can take upwards of 20 minutes to complete, and you can very easily die in minute 19 and have to start all over again. Besides the three difficulties, there isn't much variation among the levels: you're doing the same things throughout the game, just with a crueler time limit.
By completing the game's levels, you unlock different aquariums, which feature various fish and act as the in-game, configurable backgrounds. It's nothing game-changing, but it's a nice extra and something to work for.
Art Style: Aquia is an original take on the match-three puzzle genre, and its ominous setting make for a nice puzzle environment. However, it lacks variety and is quite difficult. Regardless, it stands as another interesting entry in Nintendo's burgeoning Art Style series.