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Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  Lucky Chicken
Publisher:  TDK Mediactive
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Unit
Date Posted: 

11-26-03

Anyone in marketing or retail can tell you: the demands of the marketplace are fickle.  What seems like it should be a surefire success tanks miserably, while something from completely out of left field scores a home run without even trying.  The best tidbit of life wisdom I’ve ever heard in this regard came from the lips of Motorhead’s Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister: “just run it up the flagpole and see who salutes”.   Nonetheless, there are some things you just know off the bat are simply not going to work, on any level, with any audience, at any time.  Likewise, and more to the point, there are some games that you know, right from the development phase, just should not be made.  Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis falls squarely into that category.  To be diplomatic about it, while I’m sure there must have been someone out there who found themselves excited at the prospect of a platform game featuring quite possibly the lamest character in the entire DC Universe, I am having a hard time picturing what sort of person that speculative entity might be.  Mind you, the folks at “Lucky Chicken” saw fit to utilize the tackiest, vintage 1980’s incarnation of the character as well.  I mean, really: Alan Moore/Image-style bitter, with a lion’s mane of glam metal hair and a Pirates of Penzance hook for a hand?  What the hell were they thinking?   Damn, the 80’s sucked…  Now I know, people all over are throwing up their hands in despair, pointing out that the character was always hopeless, and that this whole Cap’n Hook (more like Cap’n Crunch, actually) in bereavement thing was somehow some sort of an improvement.   This, however, is a severely flawed argument.  After all, the “classic” version might have been super lame, but at least you could take him more seriously than this clown.  Hell, he’d be stylin’ with that snazzy orange scale shirt, if nothing else.

In a misguided attempt to give the game that “comic book” feel, our pals at un-Lucky Chicken made the executive decision to omit every single bit of dialogue from the game, providing us instead with poorly drawn, blurrily lettered comic book panels to explain the “plot” of each level.  First off, the whole idea smacks of extreme cost cutting.  It isn’t that hard, or expensive, to have someone do a bit of dialogue for the thing.   Therefore, all this shows is that they realized they were putting out such a piece of crap that it didn’t even merit the slightest standards of professionalism, effort or courtesy towards their presumed audience.   Secondly, even if you were to go ahead with such a foolish production decision, reality be damned, you could at least get yourself a decent letterer.  The muddy, crunched looking text makes many of the words difficult to distinguish, if not wholly unintelligible, leaving the average gamer with little desire to continue struggling to comprehend the games admittedly limited back-story.  Not that all this matters much, as all you do after each “cut scene” is race off to fight the latest group of Black Manta’s men (one indistinguishable group after another, ad nausaeum) invading the city of Atlantis.  Ooh, plot development!

Amazingly enough, given all this, the first sight to greet your disbelieving eyes as you pop Aquaman into your doubtless protesting Xbox is a very long, boring glimpse of the hellish excuse for a game you’re about to be subjected to.  Various scenes from the game are pieced together in an attempt to somehow make this pathetic, retrograde crap seem palatable, if not exciting.  In point of fact, the result is quite the opposite.  Just the process of watching the opening already got me to wondering if I hadn’t made a huge mistake blowing twenty hard earned dollars on this crap.  All this while being subjected to music from some hack overdramatic blowhard “composer”, doubtless aspiring to become the next John Williams or Danny Elfman (as if we needed another of either!).

There is absolutely no spoken dialogue in the game.  Seriously.  Needless to say, this not only points to the already glaring chintz factor, but also seriously impacts the game “experience” as a whole.  Even the sound effects are lacking, leaving the abovementioned music as the only thing to carry the game.  Well, as you may already have gleaned, said music just plain sucks.  A sorry attempt at a “powerful”, bombastic Hollywood style score, it must have cost them all of 50c and a chewing gum wrapper to commission from some failed high school music teacher (and lest you get any glimmer of hope from that, rest assured, Mr. Holland’s Opus this ain’t).   Especially once you notice how said score starts to repeat rather early on, resulting in an interminably painful soundbite loop torturing the beleaguered gamer with its very insipidness throughout the course of the game.  Think of it as an endurance test.

<< OK, got past the shitty intro.  Check.   Strained to read the poorly drawn, illegibly written comic panels.  Check.  Managed to bear with the substandard graphics and brain-dead gameplay (see below).  Check.  Dealt with music score that sounds like somebody blowing a trumpet fanfare out of their ass.  Check.  Listen to same page and a half of said music score over…and over…and over…and over…Use game disc for target practice.  Check.  >>

Aquaman doesn’t exactly clean up in the graphics department, either.  The character models tend towards the blocky side (to be generous), and since there’s no dialogue, Lucky Chicken didn’t have to worry about matching mouth movements to it (are we tallying up the corner-cutting production cost savings yet?).  Wait, there’s more.  The same characters are recycled ad infinitum throughout the game, cutting even more effort in the graphics department.  And check this out: in a probable effort towards covering Aquaman’s many graphical deficiencies, the overall game milieu appears to be rather muddy.  I’m sure they can counter with some b.s. about how that’s supposed to make the game look like it takes place underwater.  If we were to take that at face value, my fervent hope is that we haven’t polluted our oceans quite so badly as they have been depicted here.

Gameplay is pretty straightforward: swim, punch, kick, watch the “Cap’n Hook” version of Aquaman’s womanly Fabio hair float about in the water.  The only variation in all this occurs during one sequence where Aquaman pilots a submarine, providing the doubtless breathlessly excited gamer with a cheap facsimile of a flight simulator experience.  Might I add, should anyone have missed the point emblazoned in glaring neon letters, that this is rather poorly done.  The submarine doesn’t move very well, and its controls are somewhat oversensitive, particularly in comparison to the rest of the game.  That’s it.  Other than this small sequence, the entire gameplay paradigm revolves around Aquaman swimming around to find bad guys, beating up said bad guys, repeat.  Needless to say, this sort of thing gets boring very fast.

No reason to mince words, here: Aquaman is a complete disaster.  Supplanting even the worst of PS2 ports and bargain bin Xbox or GameCube games, this is the sorriest piece of virtual crap that’s crossed my hands since the dawn of Next Gen gaming.   If there was anybody out there waiting for a game like this, I’d be shocked.  If there’s anyone out there who feels this game to be a worthwhile investment of his or her time and finances, please write us at the site.  I just have to see what sort of person you might be.  Scientific curiosity compels me to seek out such mysteries as the oft-postulated (but never discovered or proven) evolutionary “missing link”.  And buddy, you’d have to be it. 

Highs:

  • None.  Zero. Zilch.  Nil.  Zed.  Null.  Zip.  Not a damn thing.

Lows:

  • This is a trick question, right?
  • No dialogue (that’s right, no dialogue), poor sound effects and atrocious music.
  • Even for such a shallow pastime as video gaming per se, Aquaman proves to be an extremely worthless, insipid, pointless waste of time.  And given all the pro-military games out there, that’s really saying something.
  • $20 is not a bargain.

Final Verdict: 

I’d rather be attacked by piranhas than play Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis again.  There seems to have been absolutely no effort put into the development of the game whatsoever, and to no one’s surprise, it shows.  “Black Manta” can have Atlantis for all I care.  Just don’t make me play this sorry excuse for a game any more.  Just how bad this game is really comes into perspective when the first thought in my mind is how the $20 would have been better spent going to see House of the Dead three times.   And that’s saying something.  “Muerte means DEATH in SPANISH!”  A more fitting quote to end on, I cannot even dream.

Overall Score: 1.0

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