Most times, when I get a chance to review a game, I’ll mull over it for a few minutes (at least) and do some basic research; look for a trailer or some screenshots, read some description from the developer’s website – you know, try to get a feel for the game. I like to know what type of game it is, what tone the dev is going with in promoting it, and so on. When I saw the title Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender, though, that all went straight out the window. Just looking at that majestic string of words, I knew I had to have it, and let me tell you: it’s one of the better snap decisions I’ve ever made.
Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender is not a complex game. It does not dress itself in demanding rules, nor in hyper-sophisticated graphics. It is not attempting to break your perception of games, redefine a genre, or forge unknown territory. Sure, it’s dressed up in a theme that I’ve never seen before, but, at its heart, it’s a retro-style arcade shooter that makes a conscious decision to eschew complications, embrace its strengths, and simply be a damn fine example of a retro-style arcade shooter – which, I’m happy to report, it pulls off with great success.
There’s not a lot to say about the gameplay or controls here, really; they’re simple, clean, and highly functional. Your control scheme boils down to movement and three buttons: shoot, turn, and turbo shoot, a recharging limited-use boost to your attack. Along the way, you can collect powerups either to your weapons, or as add-ons that boost you in other ways. The objective is simple: defeat all of the enemies in each of the waves per level, while defending the milk-miners at their sea floor stations. Most of the enemies don’t pose a direct threat to the miners, but they can be carried off by a certain type of foe, so you need to keep a sharp eye out for those, made easier by their unique red colour on the mini-map atop the screen. The number and location of the milk mines means that this task becomes more and more daunting as you progress along the game’s map.
When we talk about the retro style in Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender — or in any of the massive wave of games recently reaching into the past — there’s a lot of things that go into that, and a lot of areas where games can slip up. Falling back on 8- or 16-bit graphics is, I’d imagine, pretty simple, as is the use of simple, arcade-style controls. Where this title really hits it out of the park, though, is in the sound department. Every moment of it, every background track and supplemental effect from the menus through the deepest parts of gameplay, absolutely nails the days of gaming past, and that’s a huge, huge deal to me because it’s a big piece of really capturing the essence of bygone times and games I still recall fondly.
You may notice I’m saying lots of good things about Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender, and basically nothing negative. You’re very observant! Here’s the thing: when I was playing this game to review it, I was never not having fun. Sure, there were some moments of game-related frustration, but never because of anything wrong with the game. At a meager $6.99 on Steam ($6.29 sale as of this writing), I’d easily say that anyone who’s a fan of classic arcade action owes it to themselves to pick up this delightfully old-school, challenging, and charming title. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some undersea milk mines to protect.
[+Impressive retro styling throughout] [+Challenging but not impossible] [+Simple, well-executed play] [+Great bargain for content]