Today’s promotion is Aquamarine. It is the debut release from tiny indie studio Moebial Studios.
Aquamarine has been in the works for several years, by a team of four worker bees. 126 days ago, the lead designer put his two solo developed games on sale, in order to help raise funds for this release, with expenses becoming “unmanageable” as the game approached completion. I think it is important to be reminded of the lengths independent developers go to in order for gamers to enjoy this medium. We love ya for it.
I picked up this title because its style and presentation caught my eye. The game is stunning and features fully hand-drawn and hand-animated artwork inspired largely by ’70s-era psychedelic comic books, specifically the work of French artist Moebius.
At the risk of revealing a weakness to all my enemies, I’m absolutely terrified of the sea. While PC Gamer describes Aquamarine as having a ‘very relaxing atmosphere’, I can confirm that this little land mammal’s fear of the deep is now at an all-time high.
A quiet survival adventure about perception and discovery in an alien ocean. Explore a planet reclaimed by nature. Cultivate new life to survive. Journey into unknown depths. Find your way home.
You play as The Seeker, a lone space traveler who is forced to eject from her malfunctioning spacecraft while orbiting an uncharted planet covered in water. You are marooned on a tiny island surrounded by an endless alien ocean, with nothing but your amphibious survival pod. Your task is to reach your crashed spacecraft and by doing so, you’ll uncover the truth of this strange planet and why you ended up here.
The game has three difficulty settings – normal, relaxed, and peaceful. Even though I was hyperventilating from the moment the main menu appeared, I managed to brave the adventure on normal. For full disclosure, I haven’t finished the game. I have a bad habit with the survival genre of starting a save file, learning about the game, and then starting again to implement what I now know. I’ll progress further on my second attempt and repeat the process so that my third attempt starts to give the impression that I know what I’m doing. This goes on and on.
It is worth noting that there is only one save file.
Aquamarine is a turn-based isometric puzzle adventure about exploration and resource management. The hard work starts straight away and after a brief introduction – the tutorial feels a little bare bones – you hop in your pod and begin exploring the games first location, known as the Coral Woods.
Getting to grips with your pod can take a little time but you’ll get there. The three hot potatoes you are constantly juggling are fuel, the ships hull, and your vitals. To maintain a healthy pod, you need to be on the lookout for energy gems, which have many integral uses. You can convert them into fuel, or use them to repair your ship. Large amounts of gems are needed when analyzing data, and if you want to get back to your island quickly then a handful of gems will make it so. When entering a new section, gathering these energy gems should be your priority.
They can be found on the ocean floor but given you’re in water, there are currents that move items after each turn you play. Gems will be washed away if you’re not careful, so you will learn to become efficient with your approach to each location, especially given that your pod has a limited range of movement and one square costs one fuel. Ah, precious fuel.
If you don’t collect energy, you will run out of fuel, forcing you to retreat to your island so that your ship can recharge. This is a slippery slope and each time this happens, you’ll lose items you were carrying.
When it comes to your vitals, you also need to be on the lookout for edibles. Just like the energy gems, you’ll find sources of food on the ocean floor but you can only carry six items at once. Given this is an alien planet, the first few jaunts into the unknown mean it is hard to know what is worth keeping and what to discard.
Ignore your vitals for too long and you’ll starve yourself into a game over. Thankfully, early on you’ll find items and materials so that you can build a camp on your island, as well as a garden. You’ll come into possession of tools and fertilizers to help grow crops, some of which don’t always agree with you…
Your pod can also be upgraded and these modifications not only improve your potential to explore, but will also allow you to defend yourself against the many creatures lurking below the surface. The first mod gives you a ‘wave’ ability, which makes collecting gems easier. After that you’ll acquire the ‘bash’ mod, which can be used to break through coral and bracken, as well as the face of anything silly enough to get close to you.
But as you’d expect, these abilities require energy. Running out of energy happens to the best of us but when it does, its not impossible to come back from. You’ll have to make calculated risks and I like it when a game offers this.
I’m really enjoying my time with Aquamarine. I jest about being too scared to play it. Don’t get me wrong, I am terrified of the sea – big baths make me nervous – but this is a relaxing game. It requires a lot of thought and strategy, and you have to make choices that have consequences, but you are entirely responsible for the pace at which you play. There is a ladder to climb but each time I load back in I understand the game better than the last time I played. I want to keep coming back.
I’ve already touched on the style and presentation but it adds so much charm. When you combine the look with low-fi synths and nautical soundscapes, you’re almost so relaxed that you forget you’re stranded totally alone on an alien planet. What someone should do, is make like a ten hour mix, oh wait –
It is a privilege to support games like this. A few bugs need ironed out for sure, but they will be. They are hardly worth mentioning.
This is a challenging puzzle adventure and one that I highly recommend for survival fans.
I can’t wait to go again and see where the story leads. You could say I’m HOOKED – pun absolutely intended, but surely I’m allowed one?!