Saturday, February 17

Review: Aqua Kitty UDX [Nintendo Switch eShop]

As a kid of the 80s I pretty well grew up in the arcades. The sights and sounds (we won’t get into the smells) that defined the experience of entering the arcade are still burned into my mind. Having wasted so much of my life, and quarters, playing arcade classics it fills me with joy to see indie developers embracing some of the greats from that era, giving them a bit of polish, and sharing them with a new generation. Aqua Kitty UDX may have a furry and cute aesthetic but its gameplay quickly shows that it has legit old school claws.

The game will allow you to toggle between 4 distinct modes, each with a different inspiration, across 3 skill levels. The first mode, Classic, is based around the arcade classic Defender and its variants. Your focus is on destroying all of the enemy waves but you’ll have milk miners that you’ll also want to specifically keep an eye on as they can be captured by specific enemy craft. You have a window of time to save them as they’re moved up the screen (and the game helps alert you to this by turning your map red and having the miner let out a distinct cry) before they’re lost but that covers most of what there is to know. The next mode, Arcade, is more of a variant on the classic Gradius and its contemporaries layered on top of the Classic mode. As you destroy waves of enemies you’ll be able to collect crystals that you can use to repair or upgrade your ship, and this mode is for keeps as when you die you’ll have to start from the beginning again. Dreadnought changes things up pretty significantly with you attacking a mothership of sorts. You’ll need to chip away at its defenses before taking on its core, all the while avoiding a consistent stream of enemies and waves of depth charges. Finally there’s Infinite mode that dispenses with nuance and simply challenges you to survive a constant progression of enemies.

Honoring the mechanics of the classics your control style allows you to move around freely to shoot, and bumping the shoulder buttons will make you turn to face the opposite direction. You’ll need to be careful to note that movement in the opposite direction you’re facing will be a bit slower, so you’ll need to carefully manage which side you’re facing if you need to evade anything. Providing some modern flair the burst fire you’re able to make use of is a convenient feature to help you take out tough enemies quicker. In addition, what amounts to a combo meter you’ll want to keep up by consistently killing enemies provides some motivation to remain on the attack to maximize your score. Throw in some challenging boss fights, support to play cooperatively with a friend, and online leaderboards and you have a fine intersection of the classic and contemporary.

Overall I only have positive things to say about Aqua Kitty UDX. It has a focus on a specific experience, delivers it effectively, and provides a reasonable progression of challenge across its diverse modes. While it won’t likely have much appeal outside of people who are arcade-style shooting fans it is also probably more friendly for acting as an introduction to the genre than other more hardcore choices on the Switch. Well worth checking out and it has a very reasonable price to boot!

Score: 8

  • 4 distinct modes, each with their own challenges
  • An intersection of classic play with some modern enhancements
  • Friendly even to less hard core shooter fans

  • The theming may not appeal to everyone
  • If chasing high scores isn’t your thing it may not have much staying power

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