Extreme puzzle busters

Feb 28, 2001 at 12:00 am

Video games are often a sublime release for aggression — a priceless tool for fist-o-matics to channel their violent behavior. Yet some games defy this unwritten rule.

Plunge into the unruly PlayStation 2 world of AquaAqua, for instance, where little dewdrop demons with lollipop smirks and childlike peculiarity wander freely among a broken landscape. Mountains rise, summits collapse, all under the control of your wicked, button-smashing fury.

Hours will be spent attempting to complete the prerequisite training mode alone, and then an entire day pushing through the first level of frustrating gameplay. The reason: AquaAqua’s 3-D plane causes indefinite faults. Similar to Tetris in concept, you must plop various styles of terrain onto the game’s floating landscape. But when positioning commands above locations (like raise, lower, etc.), it is extremely difficult to be exact. Shadows and unfriendly angles obscure your view, along with an irritatingly speedy reaction meter. If you don’t act fast enough — only mere seconds — chances of success are extinguished without forgiveness.

Some gamers might argue that AquaAqua is a puzzler, and puzzlers are designed to be tight on the nerves, but this game
isn’t simply tense; it is repulsively, agitatedly vapid. Even ardent players of the genre won’t get drunk on this castoff.

As an alternative, just turn your head toward Incredible Crisis, a seriously ingenious import that packs hip scenarios and outrageous CG effects onto one disc. So relax, salvation is only a PlayStation away. Ironically, this game is built upon maintaining sanity — not causing it — by your performance of insane button-crunching patterns, rather than creating a mind-numbing pulse like AquaAqua.

Here, main character Taneo and family are treading on thin water. Disaster is only moments away from each member, and it is up to you to rescue him/her from an animated, Tex Avery demise. From an elevator car plummeting toward a garage floor death to a sensual, Ferris wheel massage, 24 minigames are present.

And unlike real life, when these inexpensive brain-buzzers begin to radiate, simply unplug. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at [email protected].