You rarely get to see kitties in submarines defending underwater mines but today's your lucky day. Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender DX brings Defender-style shooting gameplay to modern consoles and includes more cats than you can shake a joystick at.
There's nothing worse for a kitty than having the world's supply of milk run out. But, cats aren't going to laze around all day and do nothing about it! Instead, they decide to find an alternate source and they do so underwater. After setting up deep sea milk mines, they soon get attacked by mechanical sea creatures and it's your job as a tough eyepatch-donning kitty to protect them.
Aqua Kitty is played by piloting your submarine to shoot underwater enemies within stages that scroll left and right. If you go all the way left then you end up on the far right side and vice versa since the stages loop. Controlling the submarine is effortless as you move around with ease and tap a shoulder button to face the opposite direction. Shooting is as simple as holding a button and you also have the option to use a more powerful stream of projectiles with another button. This shot has a meter that depletes quickly so it should only be used sparingly. An element that adds some complexity to the gameplay is that certain enemies will try to abduct worker kitties. When this happens, you must shoot down the enemy before it escapes with the poor little fellow. Although the controls are simple, this game can get very tough, so be prepared.
The game looks great with sharp pixel art and cute characters. Stage backgrounds are simple so every enemy and projectile prominently stands out. Characters appear very small, but this adds to the charm. Most stages look the same with the exception of different times of day and slightly different backgrounds. The soundtrack is composed of catchy chiptunes mixed with modern effects and beats which complements the pixel art graphics suitably. Sound effects add satisfaction to the experience although the shooting is quite loud and repetitive and is therefore a bit too obtrusive. Also, the effects for when you get damaged and destroy enemies are too quiet so a lot of the time you may not realise that you have been damaged. When worker kitties get abducted, they let out a meow to alert you which also comes out of the controller's speaker. This is a much needed audio cue that works very well.
Aqua Kitty consists of 25 stages that can be played on either easy or normal difficulty settings. The stages are populated by a decent amount of different enemies which you will eventually be able to identify and deal with effectively. There are also a handful of unique bosses which require a ton of damage to take down. It's very rewarding once you manage to beat them. You will also be assisted with various temporary power-ups that will allow you to shoot in different directions and increase your firepower with two additional cat helpers. As you defeat enemies, your score multiplier increases so you are rewarded for taking out enemies as efficiently as possible. You will also be rewarded bonus points according to how many milk mines remain intact by the end of each stage. The only permanent upgrade that you obtain is lengthening the powerful shot gauge. This is disappointing as it limits your sense of progression. All 25 stages can be completed within a couple of hours and there is little variation between the stages (with the exception of different enemy types and boss fights). Therefore, upon finishing the game you will probably wish that there was more to it.
A couple of modes help to add some replay value to this otherwise short game. Arcade mode is basically the same as the main mode except you collect gems to deploy power-ups via a Gradius-style gauge. You also cannot replay stages but your progress is saved unless you die or decide to restart it. The reason for these rules is that Arcade mode is basically a challenge to see how high of a total score you can achieve as opposed to the main mode which only has leaderboards per stage. The other mode is "Infinite Espresso" which is basically a single stage survival mode where you try to get the highest score possible. Although these modes don't deviate far from the main experience, they are welcome additions that high score achievers will appreciate.
If you get tired of being a lonesome kitty then you can play with a friend by having them grab a controller and join in the fun. This is a nice inclusion but the game ends up feeling far too restricting as both players must always be within a certain distance apart. If you could go wherever you wanted to and the screen just split or zoomed out when you traveled far enough away then this could be a pretty solid cooperative game. However, this limitation makes playing with a friend more of a chore than playing by yourself.
Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender DX is a fun and challenging Defender-inspired shooter that will make you smile with its cute art and great soundtrack. Although it does have its issues, fans of scrolling shooters will definitely have a good (albeit brief) time.
- + Tight and challenging Defender-inspired shooting gameplay
- + Cute pixel art graphics with catchy soundtrack
- + Arcade and infinite modes are neat additions
- - Short campaign with little variation
- - Limited sense of progression
- - Co-op partners must always be restricted to within a certain distance apart