Defender. Remember Defender? Well, AQUA KITTY UDX is just that. Defender. But under the sea. With cats. Obviously.

For those not in the know, Defender was one of my childhood dream games. Taking control of a small ship, I’d spend what seemed like hours, days and weeks in the small side scroller, battling the forces of outer space, trying to ensure my little astronaut guys were safe from harm and not whisked away to another universe.

It took up a huge amount of my younger years, but when the time finally came to hang up the defensive crown, I honestly thought that would be it, with my memories being left exactly where they should be. But it isn’t and they are not. Because they’re being dragged up again.

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You see, when I first fired up AQUA KITTY, Defender was about as far from my mind as possible. After all, this is a game about cats and water. Until that is, I started playing it. After which the souvenirs of the past, and more, came flooding back. Much of that is down to the similarities that AQUA KITTY and Defender hold, with the former quite obviously having been hugely inspired by the latter.

But anyway, enough of observing what has gone previously, what is AQUA KITTY UDX Xbox One Ultra Edition, to give it its full name, all about? Well, it’s a pretty simple story really, one which Tikipod have delightfully, humorously and lovingly told. A severe shortage of milk has gripped the world and the cats which inhabit it have been forced to seek out new sources. It is then which they stumble upon a vast wealth of naturally forming full fat milk. The problem? It’s under the ocean seabed…and we all know how cats and water get on.

But worry little because this clever group of kittens have drilled down and started extracting the white stuff like their lives depend on it. The ocean however is a wicked place, teeming with all manner of evil doer and so it is up to you to take to your submarine and keep your underwater colonies safe from harm, defending the kitties from disruptive mechanical sea creatures.

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To ensure you get maximum enjoyment from our kitten friends, the small development team at Tikipod have included three different game modes – Classic, Arcade and Dreadnought. But unlike many indie titles which throw all their eggs into the main basket, including a couple of little add-ons in the hope that gamers will be wowed, all three of those included in the ultra edition of AQUA KITTY more than hold their own.

As you would probably expect, Classic mode will no doubt be the first port of call for many, and it is here in which the most depth is found. Not only will you have to battle through hundreds of waves of underwater enemies, saving cats in the process, all as you try and keep an eye on the precious milk of your homeland, but it also houses a frankly brilliant Infinite option, giving you little else to worry about other than utterly destroying every enemy you come across. The campaign itself delivers in every way, slowly drip feeding you new enemies at a decent rate. The first few levels, and the waves that are contained within, will come across as rather sedate affairs, but it doesn’t take long for the enemy frequency, their types or the ferocity to ramp up. With some delightfully created standard enemies all sent your way, with various tactical ideas coming with them, AQUA KITTY doesn’t ever turn into a bog standard storm of shooting tedium. The bosses which appear every few levels also mix things up well, pushing your skills to the test at all times.

It’s not easy, but it is doable, and thankfully three different difficulty levels allow you to switch things up should you ever really start to struggle, whilst ship upgrades let you tackle earlier levels, at a higher test, at any time.

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There are a whole ton of power ups that come your way in-game too, with your standard front firing single shot getting boosted by the arrival of guns that fire diagonally or up and down, whilst more still see drones help you out on your fight. These are only available for a limited time though and it is occasionally wise to store them up for the really frantic moments, because if you want the milk to flow, then you’re going to need to make the most of all the help you can get.

The Arcade mode runs in much the same way as the campaign, but allows just one hit of a stage at a time. However once you lose your kitty lives, that’s about it and you’re left to run through matters from the very start again. To compensate you do at least have the opportunity to keep all ship power ups from stage to stage, something which makes it a ton easier, but on the whole, it’s just lacking the draw of the main campaign. In fact, of the three modes included, the arcade style is probably the weakest of the lot, but that possibly says more about the stunning gameplay options found in the other two, more than being a slight on it.

Dreadnought mode is definitely the most interesting of all that AQUA KITTY brings, doing away with the need for keeping watch over your little milk miners and instead placing your feline friend down into the Meowiana Trench, ready to do battle with the biggest, baddest enemies yet. With one huge boss type ship in place, it is up to you to destroy its body enough to open up its core, before plowing bullet after bullet into the heart of the ship in order to take it down. The usual smaller crafts are around, dishing out as much destruction your way as they possibly can, but it’ll be up to you to weigh up the pros and cons between taking them out or focusing on the boss at all times.

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Dreadnought puts you up against the clock too, with leaderboard placings dependant on the swiftness of your success. With the chance to save the odd kitty diver taking valuable seconds off your time, bringing about the opportunity to top your friends’ times, Dreadnought will most definitely also appeal to that strange breed of gamer – the speed runner. Or those who like to be able to brag about their leaderboard placings at the very least.

Everything you have read about above can also be taken in with a local cooperative friend. You may think that this makes AQUA KITTY a bit easier, but if truth be told, it doesn’t. In fact, if anything, AQUA KITTY is harder with a second player in tow. This is down to the fact that whilst both little cat subs get their own weapons, their own power ups and their own free movement, if one ship goes down under the pressure of an enemy swarm, they both go down to never be returned. There have been many a time when, as a solo underwater adventurer, I’ve been holding on for dear life, just about scraping through to the end. When you drop that onto two players, the chances of not completing a level are heightened. Obviously it’s all good getting access to double the bullets, but you’ll need to ensure you’ve got a decent wing-man should you wish for success.

I’ve been pretty amazed by AQUA KITTY UDX: Xbox One Ultra Edition. I will readily admit that I didn’t really know what to expect prior to going hands on with it, but from its very first minute, right up to its last, I’ve had a whale of a time helping the beloved kitty community save their world. I’ve even thoroughly enjoyed listening to the stunning music which accompanies you and your cats beneath the waves. It’s been a joy to listen to and fits with the old skool style that the game projects perfectly.

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But surely there must be something I don’t like? Well, honestly? Other than wanting a longer classic mode, then there really isn’t much wrong with AQUA KITTY. I could be super critical and mention that there is no online multiplayer, because the omission of that is pretty criminal for the joy the local scene brings. I could also mention that once you’re done with fighting through the campaign and checking out the Dreadnought levels, there will be little left to do. But with easy, normal and hard difficulties all in place, chances are you aren’t going to be done with everything AQUA KITTY holds in a hurry.

AQUA KITTY UDX won’t appeal to all, but that would be a huge shame. It’ll whisk you back to the golden age of arcade games, before hitting you smack in the face with its modern day feel, bringing enjoyment that very few other side scrolling shooters can manage.

Each and every year, an indie title pops up and wows me. Here, in 2017, AQUA KITTY is that title.

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stylon
stylon
5 years ago

Sold! Didn’t play the arcade version of Defender that much but I played Dropzone on my C64 to death which was basically the same thing. Great review, that Defender reference made all the difference!

Neil Watton
Reply to  stylon
5 years ago

Cheers – glad I tempted you in. Let me know what you think.

stylon (Steve)
stylon (Steve)
Reply to  Neil Watton
5 years ago

Played this last night for hours on end. Stonkingly good retro shooter and that chip music was just amazing… took me straight back to the 80’s. Best £6 I’ve spent in a ages 🙂