Making Waves: Aquaria

The winner of this year’s Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Aquaria, is finally available to buy. Or, for those who remain to be convinced, a just-shy-of-four-Peggles demo can be explored at your leisure.

It's okay to eat fish because they haven't any feelings.

I suspect they’ll be a lot more about this one of RPS – if it doesn’t get a John Walker-cries-tiny-tears post eventually something’s gone wrong with the world. It’s highly atmospheric, obviously beautiful and has the quiet confidence in itself which you see in few games, let alone indie-games. While old Sega Dolphin-’em-up Ecco the Dolphin is what tends to be referenced, playing it reminds me of a cross between Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, old physics-based classic Exile and recent Wii oddity Endless Ocean (nee’ Forever Blue). And to see what it looks like, there’s video footage beneath the cut…

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  1. Del Boy says:

    Played this last night, only for around ten minutes.

    I spent most of that time just making my own tunes in sync with the background music. Wonderful.

    Possibly the most relaxing game I’ve ever played.

  2. drunkymonkey says:

    Is it a little like Fl0w?

    I’ll downloading the demo when I have time. I’m interested.

  3. Butler says:

    After just 10-15 mins it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. From a game design POV, it really is an exceptional game.

    If i had children and they wanted to play a video game, this would be high on the list, only second to Manhunt (ofc).

  4. Theory says:

    Strike 1: no widescreen support.

    Strike 2: it looks like this.

    Strike 3: when I eventually stumble over the New Game button I get a load of poncy elf-speak. Yeah, target demographics and all that.

    Strike 4: the program can’t be terminated through any normal means save Task Manager and (I’m assuming) the in-game menu system I can’t see.

    I’m all for non-violent games, seriously I am, but this particular one was making a beeline to the recycle bin from the moment I started it!

  5. Kieron Gillen says:

    See the three rocks at the bottom? The right-most one is the quit button. Normally it says “Quit” on it. But, yeah, can’t see it.


  6. JP says:

    Pretty sad that it runs perfectly for me in Linux with Wine and looks all fugg’d in Vista.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    (I’m a Vista-boy too, and is completely fine)


  8. Chis says:

    I can’t help but find this tremendously dull. Sure, the art is gorgeous, but this is for Knytt / “ambient game” fans that love to explore. I’m one of these people that played STALKER and wasn’t bothered by the lack of proper “free play”. Sorry guys, I won’t be buying this.

    (Why isn’t there proper widescreen support, btw?)

  9. Jim Rossignol says:

    Why is everyone so hung up on widescreen support for an indie game about a lonely fishwoman, eh?

  10. Chis says:

    If you’re using a 16:10 LCD/TFT and can’t run Aquaria at 1440×900 / 1680×1050 / 1920×200 etc then you’re seeing scaled 2D art. Surely you’d agree that this isn’t optimal or pleasant?

  11. Chis says:

    Oops, should have been 1920×1200. *whacks RPS mods for not adding an edit button*

  12. Del Boy says:

    “If you’re using a 16:10 LCD/TFT………”

    You’re in a minority?

  13. Chis says:

    That’s news to me.

  14. Flint says:

    This is beautiful. Such a wonderful atmosphere too.

    I want the full version now, shame for a lack of (working) card to order through the net :(.

  15. JP says:

    Can’t most widescreen monitors just do a 4:3 picture with black bars to the left and right? Seems way preferable to stretching.

    Anyway, hope many RPS readers try this game out, it’s quite pretty and full of indie awesomeness.

    For those who aren’t plugged into the scene:


    etc etc

  16. Dr.Gash says:

    The game looks fine on my widescreen monitors, a touch squashed but lovely nontheless. Whatever voodoo it is they’re employing for the sprite manipulation, its really wonderful.

  17. Theory says:

    “If you’re using a 16:10 LCD/TFT………”

    You’re in a minority?

    A 25% minority. That’s just 10% less than dual core, a little surprisingly.

  18. Robin says:

    Well, that certainly answers the question of how boring Metroid/Castlevania/Dizzy games would be without any enemies or platforming.

    I’m sure it gets more involving later on, but for a game so obviously aware of casual gaming convention, it’s odd that they’ve made it such a slow starter.

  19. yns88 says:

    The exploration-with-advancements in that trailer actually seemed like Metroid to me. Definitely looks interesting.

  20. Del Boy says:

    Theory: That’s Steam stats.

    7% of viewers of my website use a widescreen resolution.

    I fall firmly in the camp that if you want a widescreen monitor you make a compromise when it comes to gaming. At the moment anyway.

  21. Rook says:

    Widescreen users are best off playing it windowed. It doesn’t seem to cope too well with scaling at full screen for some reason.

    Or you can edit one of the config files as seen in this post here
    link to

    hope that helps people.

  22. Rook says:

    Also, there’s a patch, and updating your graphics drivers should help graphical corruptions.

  23. Lou says:

    Played it for three hours (after checking the bit-blot site daily for the best part of a year for the release date), and it’s lovely. The demo is a bit harmless, but it really picks up quite a bit – lots of exploring (obviously), puzzling, shooting(!) and collecting.

    Also nice to play a game obnce again about I knew pretty much nothing beforehand apart from the screenshots I had seen.

  24. Colin says:

    To me this game pulls deeply at the inspirations of zelda and metroid. The exploration, dungeons with new abilities, and adventuring of zelda with music, combat (old school 2d), and the “feeling of solitude” of metroid.

    All in all if the demo took me three hours to complete, it’s worth the 30$ in gameplay time alone, not to mention the fun combat once you learn it and the interesting story. I’ll be picking it up once I have another 30$ of disposable income.

    Oh, and I’m running on a 22″ 16:10 flat panel just fine. I ran it windowed. If you buy widescreen for gaming, you have to expect that some older games, and the indie games might not support it.

  25. Chis says:

    You people are making out that Theory and I bemoaned the lack of widescreen as though it was a major deal-breaker, and that we suggest “the game suxxorz as a result.” Of course it doesn’t. Don’t go on some crusade just to devalue a (pretty bloody big) subset of gamers. If widescreen users don’t ask developers for widescreen support, it won’t happen.

  26. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    I love how people are whining about lack of enemies. Trust me, after going just a little bit into it, you’ll get more enemies than you need. And the combat is intense.

  27. MedO says:

    I heard it runs properly on widescreen if you directly edit the init.cfg, and widescreen support is planned. I guess they just didn’t test it yet.

    Also, ENABLE FIXED RATIO SCALING! It should be possible with every nvidia card, and I’d guess with the AMDs as well. Procedure (translated): Display properties -> settings -> advanced -> (nvidia tab) -> nView-Graphics settings -> Device settings -> Device properties -> fixed ratio scaling.

    Phew. Talk about hidden setitngs. I’m aware that I use quite old drivers, and later ones use this new-fangled nvidia control center. Don’t know where to find it there, but I’m quite sure it’s there somewhere.

  28. Lou says:

    ” If widescreen users don’t ask developers for widescreen support, it won’t happen.”

    True – but I completely understand if adding widescreen support isn’t top of the agenda for such a game. They said in the forum thy’ll (try to) add it in a patch.

    As for the many complaints, I blame people blindly buying widescreen monitors without checking it has per-pixel-mapping or at least a ratio setting.

  29. Rook says:


    The fixed ratio scaling didn’t work with this game. It’s kinda odd and never seen it before in any other game, but it really doesn’t like widescreen monitors for some strange reason.

  30. Txiasaeia says:

    “The fixed ratio scaling didn’t work with this game. It’s kinda odd and never seen it before in any other game, but it really doesn’t like widescreen monitors for some strange reason.”

    Scales perfectly fine here (iMac, 1440×900 native –> 1024×768 scaled, correct 4:3 ratio)

    The devs have said that widescreen support is on its way. As soon as that widescreen patch is released, I’m buying it.

  31. Txiasaeia says:

    “Scales perfectly fine here (iMac, 1440×900 native –> 1024×768 scaled, correct 4:3 ratio)” I should add that I’m running Windows XP, and installing the Catalyst Control Centre allows me to toggle between preserve aspect ratio, full-screen, and centred.

  32. Icupnimpn2 says:

    My widescreen monitor has autofit settings built in. As soon as I figured that out, all of my older games became considerably less smoosheded. Black bars are your friends.

  33. MedO says:

    Ah, of course if the monitor changes the ratio you have to check there, too. But generally, I think there’s no (easy) way for a game to override these driver settings.

    Personally, I’m playing at 1024×768 (on a 1280×800 notebook display), no scaling. It’s just a bit sharper that way, for obvious reasons, and only marginally smaller.

  34. Bart says:

    Oh boy, this game doesn’t deserve to be overran by system specs. It works just fine on my middle-end laptop and Aquaria is nothing short of brilliance. The relaxing music, the setting and the upcoming storytwist… I love it.

  35. Ash says:

    I like the style, will probably be downloading the demo in the near future… but buying? Meh i’ll wait for the (probably cheaper) eventual Steam release. Gabe does want every game ever made there, right?

  36. Xagarath says:

    It’s certainly the most impressive demo I’ve played in quite a while.
    I’ll be buying the full version shortly. Very shortly.

  37. valentina says:


  38. MedO says:

    A li’l late, but I want to append:

    It might be true that the game runs at widescreen resolution if you edit the config file, but currently, I think it’s a stretch.

    (At least, I tested it and it looked skewed)

  39. povu says:

    I just finished this game, it’s great. I decided to see if I could dig up any interviews or reviews about Aquaria on RPS, and I was surprised there hasn’t been any real mention of the game aside from this meagre post. But I don’t know what this site was like in 2007.

    ‘if it doesn’t get a John Walker-cries-tiny-tears post eventually something’s gone wrong with the world’

    Bring on a retrospective!

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      Herzog says:

      I second this suggestion. An Aquaria retrospective would be greatly appreciated!