Sea Craft: Scuba

By Adam Smith on August 22nd, 2011 at 3:30 pm.

No Rapture Here
Interactive experiences in which tiny little people dig into the ground and build stuff with the things they find there are the only game in town. And when I say ‘town’ I mean your town as well as mine. When given the choice between fighting in a modern war or building a house made out of dirt, today’s gamer will reach for his trusty pickaxe every time. Well, most times. Some times. Minecraft continues to be a phenomenon and Terraria has been a massive success. Scuba, a flash game from Louissi posted on Armor Games, certainly has more in common with Terraria than Minecraft. It’s a sidescrolling dig ‘em up with a twist. Guess what the twist is. The clue is in the title.

Water. That’s right. Absolutely loads of the stuff. To hammer home the Terraria vibe, the game should really be called Aquaria but that game already exists and is lovely, so Scuba it is.

A brief introduction sets the scene. A rocket crashes onto an alien planet. The man inside (you are now that man!) must find the parts needed to fix his ship. It’s an age-old dilemma and one that Commander Keen solved by use of a pogo stick and a raygun. For our intrepid adventurer though, it’s a mining laser that comes to the rescue. And a handy diving suit.

The game wears its inspiration on its sleeve and if you didn’t enjoy Terraria, there’s nothing that will pull you in here. It’s the exact same thing on many levels. I felt a stronger urge to explore deeper, faster, mainly because the surface is a lot duller than in Terraria. The suit can only handle a certain amount of pressure as well, so going deeper requires upgrades. It could be a clumsy way to reign in progress but it fits the theme and it feels horrid when the little man (who, recall, you now are) is slowly crushed to death in his archaic looking suit.

Having all that water down there differentiates the game from Terraria somewhat and it’s a good job, because otherwise it’d be a bit pointless having them both knocking around. Air and depth pressure are the main issues, but the water also changes movement. No need to dig stairways behind you, now it’s possible two swim back to the surface. Turns out being underwater is very much like having a jet pack in that regard.

The other major difference is that even though the game has a sandbox feel to it, there is an objective. To fix that engine and get off the planet. I haven’t actually got that far so couldn’t say how long it takes or whether there’s an actual ending as such, but there is a direct goal. And that’s something Terraria and Minecraft both lack, for better or worse.

Two things made me actually delve deeper into the game though. The first was to see whether it brought anything new to the Terraria table. It is a remarkable act of imitation but I suspect I’d have to play more to see if it diverges significantly. I doubt it. The second thing that caught my interest was being immediately reminded of Exile. Not the Spiderweb software RPGs but rather the 1988 BBC Micro game. Something about the crash landing, the caverns and the graphics brought it to mind and that pleased me. I’d never made the link with Terraria because the look is so different but perhaps these exploration games have far more ancient origins than we sometimes realise.

A word on the music, since it’s playing in the background as I type this. Sometimes it is reminiscent of a more twee Air and it is quite soothing. I actually thought I’d muted it until I thought about it just then, which suggests it is almost indistinguishable from silence. Ambient is a word I could use.

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23 Comments »

  1. rayne117 says:

    I stopped playing Terraria after 9 hours because I set the game to drop items (I didn’t understand what that implied as I had never played the game). Well I went out into the really dark and scary zone and got mauled by soul eaters. I fell through a chasm, 9 hours worth of gear falling all the way down.

    Tried for another 2 hours to reclaim it, but it turns out that the soul eaters NEVER EVER STOP SPAWNING. I put blocks around myself and slowly went down the chasm. At one point there was at least 15 of them gnawing just inches from my face.

    Then I uninstalled it.

    And you want me to relive that, Mr. Smith? How dare you Sire!

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    • YeOldeSnake says:

      Well then , someone should take care of that bot.
      To reply to rayne117 , thats what chests are for.

    • magnus says:

      But it’s not much fun loosing the Gold pickaxe you just made because you acidently hit the throw button and found out what lava does to it.

  2. Ergates_Antius says:

    Played this last night.

    Nice little game. Starts off well – pootling around, having an explore is pretty fun. The making little bits and bobs to upgrate your suit, mining laser is pretty satisfying to start with too.

    But I found it got a bit grindy after a while, and the exploring tapers off too.

    Unlike Terraria, there’s nothing particularly different to see deeper down. There’s 1 new type of creature, you find deposits of materials you were previously making yourself. And thats about it.

    Still, a fun way to spend an hour or so.

  3. rustybroomhandle says:

    And oddly, looking at the screenie, I am reminded neither of Minecraft nor Terraria, but Worms.

  4. Koozer says:

    “Having all that water down there differentiates the game from Terraria…”

    Not the way I play Terraria it doesn’t.

  5. Nallen says:

    I am yet to ‘get’ these games. Even Minecraft, where I can see the potential and marvel at the creations and I know that I *should* enjoy it…I fire up, play for about 10 minutes and then just lose interest!

    It’s not like I intrinsically don’t like sandbox games either, I played Eve for years. Maybe if they replaced the tile set with a moon based one and the scuba suit with a space suit, and then made the game about collecting resources to survive in the vacuum of space…you know I’m actually starting to like the sound of this…

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Except this game isn’t a sandbox game – it has a definate goal (build an engine for your rocket).

    • Nallen says:

      Well there is a goal in the GTA games but I think they’re still accepted as sandbox aren’t they? Or is building the engine the only thing you can do?

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Pretty much

    • rayne117 says:

      I think sandbox should be renamed to “non-linear”. A linear game would be something like Halo. You have set missions, in these missions you have set objectives. You may be able to walk around and explore (like a sandbox) but it’s still linear in it’s objectives. GTA IV is linear in the sense that you have set missions, and you have to do all of them to progress, but you get to pick the order. When you actually do a mission, it is very linear and you must do exactly as you’re told.

    • godwin says:

      Yeah, a true sandbox game would be something like Garry’s Mod.

  6. magnus says:

    So does spam sink and how fast does a spambot take to drown?

  7. Cryotek says:

    I have played Terraria about 60 hours and despise it. But I love it.

    ARRRRRGGGGGGGGG.

  8. jokomul says:

    I absolutely love Terraria, but I didn’t like Scuba at all. I’m not really sure why but it just seemed like an annoying chore to play it.

  9. Chunga says:

    The screenie reminded me of Flood, a game nobody except me remembers, I guess.

  10. vivlo says:

    what bothers me most is the crafting recipes. At first sight, it seems you can win the game by just mining loads and loads of dirt.

  11. BatmanBaggins says:

    Fun little game, only took me about 37 minutes from starting until I got the engine built, so playing it isn’t a long-term proposition.

    There’s not much depth to it, but it was enjoyable

  12. Srekel says:

    Is there coop?