With a retro appearance and challenging gameplay to boot, Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender is a nice throwback to the old days of shmup games all while presenting something new to the genre and mobile gaming in general. There may not be any new mechanics in the game, but the game as a whole makes for an enjoyable experience despite issues such as a difficulty level that may make people tear their hair out. As a $4 mobile game Aqua Kitty dishes up enough content and more importantly it’s just fun to play.
+ Gameplay is fun even amidst the challenges that may surface.
+ Art style perfectly encapsulates a retro feel without being too annoying in a hipster developer sort of way.
+ Music also captures the retro vibe and is even ominous in a good way at times.
+ Who doesn’t love deep sea diving kitties?
- Increasing difficulty of certain stages can result in an overwhelming experience.
- A lack of a story isn’t a major issue, but it would’ve provided some nice humor here and there.
It’s always interesting to see how certain things are combined and what the ensuing result is within a game. Seeing the combination of genres or thematic elements may not bring us too many surprises these days given how the industry is, but once in a while there are exceptions. The combination of retro gaming + side-scrolling shooting + kitties + hardcore gaming may be something that would be deemed silly, though in the case of Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender it provides us with a fun romp that harkens back to the old days of gaming.
Not a lot of creative chances are taken on the consoles that much, but for the many game creators out there they do have the outlet of doing mobile games, of which I’m thankful for otherwise we may not have ever received Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender despite the name sound like t’ll be one of those terrible Ubisoft games aimed for young girls or a potential Hello Kitty spin-off that went off the deep end. However, Aqua Kitty manages to create an experience that’s completely cohesive and more importantly is fun – even if a few kitties are lost in the process.
Set in a dark and terrible future in which the most important resource is near depleted, Aqua Kitty revolves around a squadron of cats doing whatever they can to mine their precious resource. The kitties aren’t searching for oil as they’re instead looking for the precious milk they love and desire all the time; sometimes resulting in those ever cute milk beards. Obviously the game doesn’t take itself too seriously since it has the cats, which are an advanced species somewhat similar to Kat from Red Dwarf minus the constant stupidity, delving to the depths of the sea to mine the vast milk deposits that have been found. Outside of a brief description told via the PS Store, the plot for Aqua Kitty is nowhere to be seen, an element that I found to be disappointing given the potential jokes and pushing of the cute button that could’ve been done by developer Tikipod.
In order to properly mine the milk hidden beneath the crust of the sea, the cats of the future do such a thing via advanced sea vehicles. So sadly Aqua Kitty doesn’t have a cat character going all wild shooting a laser gun as the action is instead restricted to a ship that evoke memories of the one found in Pixel Junk Shooter. Not having a wild cat warrior on screen isn’t a complete loss as it instead puts the game in the shmup category – of which it lives up to the heritage through some fierce gameplay scenarios.
As a side-scrolling shooter/shmup Aqua Kitty keeps things straight and to the point: you navigate a 2D plane as you can move up and down in addition to being able to go back and forth within a stage. The unique element of Aqua Kitty comes in how each stage is laid out as that corresponds to the ever changing difficulty of the game. The main goal of each stage is to protect each milk mine at the bottom of the sea by making sure the engineers aren’t snatched up by killer jelly fish creatures. That’s the main goal of the game; provide milk to the cat empire at any cost. It may sound like each mission is of the escort variety and while it technically could be described as such it honestly isn’t that simple.
As I progressed through the main hubs in the game, of which there are four with multiple stages, I had to contend with things such as levels having different depths of water or there being multiple milk mines. Having to go back and forth within a stage to rescue a cat upon hearing their crying meow ups the difficulty level since there can be upwards of four mines, some of which can be attacked at the same time. Thanks to the accessible controls of the game it was easy to go back and forth between two points, but dealing with the horrors of the sea is where things can become difficult.
I wouldn’t put Aqua Kitty on the bullet hell level of shmup games but it does come close to it. Facing easy sea critters that can be taken out fast doesn’t last long as more advanced foes appear which can fire a three bullet pattern, take multiple shots to take down, or constantly hop thus making it difficult to destroy. Thankfully things aren’t entirely unmanageable near the start since it simply takes skill and patience to survive each stage. Battle elements are made somewhat easier by each stage having a set amount of attack waves so it’s possible to take a glance at the top portion of the screen to know when the horror will soon stop. But as I progressed through some of the later stages I did become frustrated at times since it seemed like the difficulty was ratcheted too much and with only minimal ship upgrades available, there are scarce item pick-up in some stages, so I felt like the odds were against me .
Occasionally I was close to throwing my Vita upon seeing a cutesy cat somewhat mock my defeat, but I was still engaged with the game since its charm is undeniable. It probably would’ve been easy for developer Tikipod to load the game with cat jokes or take a note or two from some past memes like ceiling cat, but the humor of the game isn’t that obvious. Sadly there isn’t loads of humor since there isn’t much in the way of dialog or a story, but it was funny hearing the warning cat cries and then seeing their deep-sea outfitted bodies slowly fall back down towards the ocean floor.
The overall character in the game is immense since the style is reminiscent of games from the 16bit era. In some cases seeing modern games that go the 16bit may be played out since it can seem like the developers are trying too hard. Within the setting of Aqua Kitty everything works well since the art style is minimalistic in a good way and secondary things such as the music really hammer down the tone and create the complete experience of retro goodness.
If you’re searching for a mobile shmup game that is actually good and isn’t a complete throwaway then Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender ought to fit your needs. Some small issues are abound like a difficulty level that ramps up too much at times and no secondary content like leaderboards or even local multiplayer, but the gameplay and retro inspired style more than make up for those minor shortcomings. And at the end of the day who doesn’t want to play as a cat controlling a submersible that is fending off giant sea creatures?