By Eric Pankoke on Tue, 05/10/2011
There’s something about an underwater setting that promotes peace and tranquility – unless, of course, you’re a fish with a vengeance and can blow killer bubbles. In Treasure Reef you play Herby, a fish trying to find the legendary treasure of Reef Island. Unfortunately there are these nasty creatures called Creeps that will do whatever they can to make sure you don’t get that treasure. You have 28 levels to prove them wrong and find out what the legend is.
The game has two modes: adventure and Quick Game. In adventure mode you’ll travel through 28 randomly generated levels, trying to accomplish a goal on each level, which is basically either “kill X number of bosses” or “kill all the creeps”. Here’s then funny thing about creeps, though. Even the basic creep takes several hits to kill. All other creeps will split into two of a more basic level of creep when shot enough times. As if that weren’t bad enough, bosses are continually spawning creeps until you kill the boss. It’s kind of like a cartoony, aquatic version of Gauntlet (once you stretch your imagination a bit). I’m not really sure how the Quick Game works because I haven’t finished Adventure mode yet, which you need to do in order to unlock Quick Game.
Your basic weapon is the deadly bubble – who knew? The bubble is auto-targeting, which is good and bad. This is really bad when you’re trying to kill a boss, and creeps get in closer, distracting the poor bubbles and making them shoot things you don’t want to shoot. Same applies when you’re trying to take out a creep that shoots back and your aim gets redirected to a mostly harmless non-shooting creep. Thankfully you have an array of items at your disposal to aid the overworked bubble in its job. Some power ups affect you and take effect immediately, while others are activated by you, and slowly recharge over time. This is the way power ups should be.
Passive power ups include health, a temporary speed boost, the ability to inflict more damage, and an increased firing rate. The active power ups are where it’s at, however. There are a couple of multi-bubble shots, but then you get a cannon that you can set down which will keep firing at creeps until its health runs out. You also get poison that will infect every creep you hit for a couple of seconds. The poison wears away at the creeps even when you’re not attacking them. There’s also a mine that will detonate on the first creep it hits, sending out bubbles to wipe out a bunch of bad guys. All these power ups are infinitely reusable – you just have to wait for them to refill after use. You can also upgrade their effectiveness by collecting more than one icon for a given power up. The power level of a given power up is displayed under its icon on the control panel.
That brings us to the controls, or as I like to call it, “the perfect way to mar a decent game”. To move Herby around the screen you simply drag your finger where you want him to go. That sounds simple enough, and it is. However, all the buttons for activating power ups are on the left side of the screen. Basically, if you’re left handed you’re either out of luck or better learn to steer with your right hand. (Side note: if anyone ever needs a left handed tester, let me know). This in and of itself would be workable, except that the power ups require such a forceful press to activate that you’re bound to get swamped if you have to stop moving for any amount of time to activate one. Not to mention the fact that many of the power ups are direction sensitive, which means I’ve launched power ups in the wrong direction on several occasions. What I’d love to see is the ability to move the buttons over to the right, and a virtual d-pad for those who want it.
The graphics are quite colorful and cheery. You almost feel bad killing the creeps with their big, innocent eyes. Thankfully the bosses don’t look so cute, so there’s no regret there. It would be nice to have some variety of villains, but you get used to it after a while. The background is simple but effective, and the maze walls look pretty decent. I do like the fact that every time you get hit Herby temporarily has a band aid on him. The power up noises are actually pretty decent, but the constant bouncing and bombarding of the bubbles gets old after a while. I also could do without the pounding heart as you’re dying. It’s nice to have an audio as well as visual indicator, but it grates on you as time passes. What I could do with is some background music, since at the moment there is none.
Treasure Reef is not a bad little game, though I think kids will get more of a kick out of it than adults. While I like to get my money’s worth out of things I did find the levels to be a tad long to complete, especially when I’d get down to one boss (after 15 minutes) and end up dying. That probably doesn’t seem like much to some of you, but when you factor in the 28 levels of adventure mode… My biggest gripe with the game is the controls, which if fixed could certainly alleviate some of my other angst. In the end, though, to make this appeal to more than just kids and extreme casual gamers, there needs to be a larger variety of bad guys and goals to meet.
Overall Score: 7/10
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