Few things elicit seventy million audible ‘Awww’s as much as kitten videos on the internet (you know you want it). Therefore, the premise of a group of cats so hard-up for milk that they resort to deep-sea milk drilling (yes, it’s a thing) in a desperate attempt to satisfy their thirst ranks somewhere between ‘Awww’ and ‘Where the hell did these cats gain the know-how and opposable thumbs to do so?’. Such is the idea behind Aqua Kitty (240 MSP), a previously Playstation Vita-only indie shooter that’s now scratched and pawed its way to the XBLIG channel.
#Xbone joke, check!
Piloting a submarine, and tasked with protecting the milk miners during their massive milk extraction, you’ll battle through waves of enemies in each level, stamping out multiple foot soldiers and would-be kidnappers (the red dots on your minimap). With separate hub continents amounting to new ‘worlds’, bringing with them tougher enemies and / or more waves, there’s no shortage of stages and variety.
It plays roughly the same regardless of ‘world’, each level just one big circle of hazards and foes, with a varying number of miners to watch over. Completion only requires one cat be left alive, though ultimately your score relies on you saving them all and keeping your combo meter high. In addition to your regular gun, a limited secondary shot fires a stronger and more concentrated blast, which clears out mobs quickly. Your overall power level is increased with each new ‘world’ hub unlocked, though judicious use of that secondary fire (it regenerates when not in use) is a surefire way to win.
Powerups prove essential in that victory as well, which include screen-decimating bombs and co-kitty pilots laying down suppressing fire for a limited time. Health is at a premium in Aqua Kitty, just
nine lives three hearts per level, with occasional heart pickups dropped, provided you shoot them at the right moment; depending on the depth you open them, you can in essence ‘choose’ your powerup. Still, there’s little time or room for error, as each wave brings with it a renewed sense of urgency.
Co-op makes all the difference in later rounds.
And you’ll have to be quick in your assessments, eyes darting from the minimap to the action and back several times, taking care not to be vaporized in the interim. It’s a challenge that legitimately feels rewarding when you have a perfect run, though casual players take note— the difficulty increases significantly in the second half of the game, more or less urging you to seek out a second set of eyes and hands. The local co-op, added for the Xbox port, could be the solution here, as playing solo on the later levels was a one-way ticket to frustration, in my experience.
That’s not much of a warning to those that appreciate a stiff fight, though, making Aqua Kitty a more than suitable shooter for those with a ‘cat / underwater / cats underwater’ fetish. There are no online leaderboards, sadly, and the price might tilt higher than the usual XBLIG release, but if you missed out previously on the Vita version or just love fine feline pixel art, the game transfers excellently.