Art Style: Aquia is a simple DSiWare puzzle game which takes players deep undersea. Playing as a diver reaching for the depths of the ocean, the goal is to clear blocks to maintain your oxygen reserve level. The game offers a wide difficulty range and its 30 stages are completely unlocked from the start, letting players of all abilities play at an enjoyable pace.
The puzzle itself is made of a three-block wide column, which runs along the length of both DS screens. You start by choosing one of three shapes to play with - a two-block vertical, two-block horizontal or four-block cube piece. Inserting this active piece in the column, you try to clear horizontal or vertical lines of at least three matching coloured blocks. The inserted piece will push out another on the opposite side of the column. You are free to flip your piece to match colours more effectively. Read More…
Clearing pieces does two things, it makes your diver advance deeper under water and adds a bit of oxygen to his tank. Clearing several pieces at once through combos will also give a short boost of speed to your diver.
In addition to the basic gameplay, there are a couple of additional features which make Art Style: Aquia a unique puzzle game. As you clear pieces and send your diver deeper under water, he will gradually use up his oxygen supply which is displayed by the screen getting progressively obscured. Starting on the top DSi screen and working down, darkness will eventually cover all of the blocks unless you refill on oxygen. In more advanced difficulties, your oxygen will drop faster.
A meter running along the right edge of both DSi screens shows how deep your diver is in relation to the goal. If you are behind on your oxygen level, a red marker will also appear on the meter, showing you how deep you should be.
Letting your oxygen level reach zero at any point will result in game over. Clearing pieces will brighten your screen a little. However, as your screen darkens three oxygen blocks will appear. Matching them up will refill your diver’s oxygen tank and light up the puzzle completely. Blocks that are obscured can still be moved and cleared.
As you clear the board, you will notice empty blocks appearing through the column. These cannot be cleared on their own. You need to clear other sets of blocks right next them. The empty blocks will take on that colour, thus allowing them to be cleared.
You will also see that after clearing blocks, a shiny white border appears along the edge of your active piece. Clearing more pieces while in this state will create a chain giving your diver another short speed boost.
Art Style: Aquia offers two play modes, Timed Dive and Free Dive. In Timed Dive, you play until your diver reaches the bottom. After this first task, a second screen will appear in which the puzzle column will be blank except for a shape made up of two blocks to start and more as your progress. These blocks are scrambled and must be put back together before a red horizontal line representing oxygen levels reaches the bottom of the second screen. Completing this task ends the level. In Free Dive, there is no second phase. Your diver will keep going deeper until he runs out of air. Reaching the bottom of the screen will open a new diving area.
Unfortunately, Art Style: Aquia offers no online play or leaderboards. Nor does it support local multiplayer, which could have added a more competitive dimension. The game in entirely controlled using the DSi face buttons and d-pad, with absolutely no stylus support.
The game’s presentation is simple, yet slick and effective. The graphics are modest, but clean and bright. As you advance through the game, you will unlock different fish which you can view in the game’s aquarium. Though this feature is very basic it is a nice extra to have included. The sound production, on the other hand, is excellent. Actions like moving a piece and inserting it in the column will add tones to the simple atmospheric audio track which plays in the background, creating a unique sound environment every time.
Art Style: Aquia is successful in creating a fun and even addictive puzzle experience. Its adjustable difficulty settings make it enjoyable from the get go for players of all abilities. While the absence of online (or offline multiplayer) options is regrettable, its effective presentation and unique game play makes Art Style: Aquia a puzzle title definitely worth taking a look at.
+ Completely Unlocked from the Start
+ Creative Gameplay
+ Excellent Sound Design
- No Online or Local Multiplayer
Game Forward Score: 4/5
Nathalie Caron > Game Forward
Art Style: Aquia (DSiWare) Quick Facts:
Developer: skip Ltd.
Release Date: April 5, 2009
Price: 500 Nintendo Points ($5 USD)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)