Aqua Kitty UDX is the deluxe version of this arcade shooter for the Nintendo Switch. In a world where cats have the ability to manufacture and pilot submarines, it is your job to protect the miners at work. The milk has run dry, and as we all know it is the lifeblood of cats everywhere. This precious resource has been discovered in the depths of the ocean, to the great relief of cat kind. This discovery comes at a cost as the indigenous - and rather mechanical - fish step in to intervene, in what I can only assume is to protect their territory.
These sea creatures are not your ordinary sea dwellers, and are armed to the teeth (gills?) with different weaponry. This is where our cat hero steps in to save the day, in his submarine which has the maneuverability and firepower of an X-Wing. He must protect the miners as they dig into the seabed and extract the full fat milk from its source. It's very unclear whether the cats are the good guys fighting evil, mechanical sea creatures or whether the cats are actually the bad guys. Disturbing mother nature and mindlessly extracting her resources. Endlessly slaughtering wave upon wave of fish as they attempt to protect their home. Maybe even stealing a resource the fish themselves need to survive. Is the milk critical to the ecosystem? Will it leave behind a barren and dead seabed upon its retrieval? Who knows? It's probably best not to think about it. Let the milk flow!
There are four modes available, with one being new to this version of the game. The returning modes are: arcade, classic and endless. Arcade mode tasks you with destroying all of the enemy fish and saving the miners from being abducted. There are green gems to be collected and these give the player the chance to upgrade their abilities. There are four different locations on the map, all with a varying number of levels contained within. The biggest challenge to arcade mode is that once you die you lose your progression and start again (no nine lives this time).
Classic mode is very similar to arcade but with some important differences. Firstly, once a level is completed, progression is saved, eliminating monotony induced by constantly repeating levels. The other big difference is that there are no green gems. Instead there are special fish that, once destroyed, offer an instant but temporary powerup. The last of these modes is endless mode and is a little self explanatory. Wave after wave of fish will keep appearing until your cat can no longer take any more and crashes to his doom. The longer you hold out in this mode the higher the score.
The new mode in this version is dreadnaught. The levels are built up with structures that must be destroyed. There are a couple of stages to these fights, and the complexity and difficulty of the structures increase as you progress through the levels. Firstly, the outer turrets must be destroyed and then the core must be obliterated to defeat the boss. All the while there are enemy fish filling the screen, and there are cats being held hostage that need to be rescued.
The mode I found myself most drawn to was classic. In both classic and arcade the main objective is to clear the ocean of enemy fish but also to protect the miners. If too many cats are abducted then it's game over, no matter how many enemies are being wiped out. This adds a great sense of urgency and chaos to an already frantic situation. Thankfully, there is a map at the top of the screen that tracks yourself and the enemy fish. Not only that, it clearly shows where the kidnapped miners are, and turns red upon their abduction. When you are knee deep in enemies, these visual cues are vital to instantly know what is happening and where. At first managing the two objectives can be overbearing, and as the map is essentially a loop it can be difficult to always know where your ship is in relation to the kidnapping. With practice this becomes second nature, and adds to the high intensity of the game.
To add further challenge to the quick reflex gameplay is the diverse variety of enemies. Before each level, new enemy types are introduced, with a rundown of their abilities. Whilst mindlessly blowing up everything in sight seems easy enough, the enemies have different characteristics that are worth noting. Some enemies are slow and move in a singular direction, while others will dart around, some will even double back on themselves. The fish also have different types of weapons that shoot in different directions, which is important to know before you approach an enemy from behind. This level of variation adds a deeper level of strategy to a fast paced shooter, and asked me to take note of a lot different aspects at the same time, but never too many that it became confusing.
The abundance of enemy variety is in stark contrast to the lack of variation in level designs. Every level is a slightly different underwater environment. So much so that from memory it's not easy to differentiate one location from another. There is no attempt to freshen the aesthetics by adding artwork - like coral reefs - to help give unique looks to locations. In truth the areas are quite bland and forgetful, some forgiveness can be shown as the game moves so quickly. There is so much happening on screen that it seems rather redundant to talk about backgrounds.
Aqua Kitty UDX (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Aqua Kitty UDX is a robust arcade shooter with an adorable cat aesthetic. The game offers a good level of challenge and chaos to keep you on your toes. It's let down slightly by some uninspired backgrounds but offers lots of fun on the Nintendo Switch.