Sometimes a game comes along that is so good that demands to be released on as many platforms as possible. Worms from Team 17 is one that immediately springs to mind. But one 16-bit inspired shooter from indie developer Tikipod has been remastered for most current platforms from all three manfacturers, with each version having a new update on the game. The result of this remaster being Aqua Kitty UDX…
Aqua Kitty – A Brief History
Before I go on, I mentioned that this isn’t the first time Aqua Kitty has been released. The original version of Tikipod’s arcade shooter was released for the ill-fated PlayStation Mobile range. Despite being a fan favourite, as with all games for the PlayStation Mobile format it was overlooked by many. Undeterred, Tikipod revisited the game numerous times over the years from the XBox 360, PC – adding extra levels and features along the way including a two player mode.
The biggest update for the original game saw it return as Aqua Kitty Milk: Mine Defender DX for the PS Vita and PS4. Most of the updates were aesthetic – improved graphics, background animations etc. Extra levels were included, end of level bosses, a few weapon upgrades and a new game mode. The main feature that appealed to owners of both consoles was the inclusion of online leaderboard and trophy support. Both of which were a factor that were a hindrance to the sales of all PlayStation Mobile games.
Then the game made one more console generation jump to the XBox One, Nintendo Switch and now Steam with Aqua Kitty UDX. The definitive version of the game, with even more content.
But What Is Aqua Kitty?
With it’s 16-bit graphics reminiscent of one of my all-time favourite computers, the Amiga, and gameplay inspired by the arcade classic, Defender, the original PlayStation Mobile release of Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender made it’s way into our list of the Top 25 PlayStation Mobile Games. With it’s fast, addictive gameplay and great visuals it quickly became a personal favourite of mine and still is to this day.
Briefly though, this Defender clone departs from the clichéd space theme and adopts a feline setting instead. The cats of the world are in distress as the globe’s milk supply is drying up. Left with no alternative, our feline friends have to seek out new sources of their favourite beverage and to their surprise (and ours) have found a new untapped reserve underground so they set out to mine it using underwater drilling platforms. It’s your job to protect the kitty miners from attack as they try to grab as much milk as they can from the planet to feed the hungry moggies of the world.
Fans of Defender will feel right at home with this straight away. There’s an on screen radar so you can see where your mining kitties are that need protecting. Controls are fluid allowing your to steer your deep sea craft quickly and turn rapidly with a tap of a button. And for that extra boost when you need it, there’s a secondary firepower mode to your cannon that lets you use an intensive heavy burst mode for brief periods of time between charges.
The main game is split over stages in themed areas. Defeat all the enemies out to kidnap your miners and you’ve cleared the stage. At the end of each theme there’s a boss that needs to be defeated then you can move on to the next. Stages can be tackled in any order, with points bonuses being awarded depending on how many kitties survive each stage. From level four onwards, temporary powerups are introduced that can be released from shooting special creatures during play to aid you in the game.
It’s not just about a single game mode though. If it were you’d either grow tired of the gameplay or soon move onto something else. From the DX version of the game onwards, the Arcade Mode was added. At first this appears to be the same as the standard game – protect the kitties from capture and shoot everything else in sight. But there’s an added twist.
This new variant of the game for this update combining elements of Defender with Konami’s arcade smash hit Gradius. This time, you have a range of power-ups at your disposal that you have to buy using crystals that you collect during play. Green orbs will float in the water at random in the game, destroy these and crystals will be left behind and as you collect enough you’ll see a choice of weapons highlighted in a list at the bottom of the screen. When your chosen weapon is highlighted, press a button to “buy” it and unleash hell on everything in your path! I have to be honest and say that I actually prefer this to the main game mode. It’s still the same game and progresses through the levels the same way but combining the Aqua Kitty structure and gameplay with Gradius’ weapon system really takes the game to a whole new level.
But that’s not all… Aqua Kitty UDX has added a third game mode into the mix with the Dreadnought Mode. Instead of adopting the Defender-style gameplay, this time you’re up against a single giant craft defended by gun turrets, and plenty of support craft. As well as trying to take all of these out, there’s a power core at the heart of each dreadnought that you need to destroy to complete each level. It’s not as easy as it sounds as each of them spews out and endless supply of shots at you, bullet-hell shooter style.
Spread out across each of the dreadnoughts are kitties waiting to be rescued by you as well. Trapped in individual prison cells, you have to shoot these repeatedly before you can set them free and save them. All while under atttack by anything nearby. It’s a great addition to the game and extends it’s lifespan considerably.
As with all the other games in the series, Aqua Kitty UDX sports a 16-bit aesthetic with some super pixel art, reminiscent of the Amiga and Megadrive era. Everything is bold and colourful and is wonderfully detailed and animated. The game looks great and even when there’s plenty on screen, there’s never any slowdown or difficulty in distinguishing different anything on screen from each other.
Sound is also a delight with a wonderful chip soundtrack from Electric Cafe, who have worked with Tikipod on all of their games so far. The soundtrack is so good that it’s one of the few I can happily listen to away from the game itself. While not the type of thumping rock track you’d typically associate with an arcade shooter, it still fits the whimsical nature of the game perfectly.
Just One More Go…
One thing I really loved about Aqua Kitty UDX (and the whole series if I am honest), is that it has that irresistable “one more go” factor about it. Defender is one of those all-time-classic arcade games anyway, and this brings enough new elements to keep it fresh and compelling to draw you back to it. Even after you complete it, there are enough challenges and game modes to keep you coming back and entertained for hours on end.
It’s one of those games that’s simple to pick up and play, but damn is it hard to put down!
Aqua Kitty UDX is an absolutely gem of a game and is one of the best budget shoot-em-ups on the market right now, regardless of what format you choose to buy it on. It’s great value for money and will give you hours of blasting action for anyone who loves old-school shooters. If you can track it down, there is a limited edition physical copy available for the Switch that also comes bundled with Astro Aqua Kitty making for a fantastic twin pack.