Aqua Lungers: An In-the-Depths Review

     If you've ever heard that a game is easy to learn, but difficult to master- then you know the gist of Aqua Lungers.  The goal is simple- loot sunken wrecks for gold, and return it to your own treasure chest. The obstacles to that goal are small groups of annoying enemies that knock gold out of your hands and slow you down, large boss enemies that can one-shot you, and the absolute worst of the bunch- other players vying for that sweet, sweet gold!

     Players must navigate dangerous depths to break open sunken ships to obtain the golden treasures held within, and carry up to 10 bits at a time back to their stash.  It really is extraordinarily simple- get loot as fast as possible.  If you are attacked you drop some, if you die you lose it all.  A seemingly straightforward challenge.

     In a single player game, there'll be no other divers to beat you to the loot, but be warned there's significantly more enemies to make your expeditions troublesome.  And the bosses can collect gold as well.  I had a couple matches where the boss was collecting gold while the camera panned to the spawning area before I could get into the match.  A little frustrating, but still fun to try and loot the shipwrecks before being mutilated by giant monsters and their annoying little minions.
     There's also a boss mode, wherein the typically invincible bosses must be slain before the timer ends, and as soon as it dies, whoever has the most gold wins.  Players must find a balance between collecting gold, messing with opponents, and working cooperatively to kill the boss before the timer runs out.

     BUT!  What makes Aqua Lungers stand out even better is that players can change the parameters, which can drastically alter how you play.  The base amount of gold that must be looted per level is 3000 to win- but maybe you want a much longer game- crank it up to 10k!
     Would you like a time limit to dial up the pressure in a stressful rush to snag all that loot!  Turn the game into a "mad splash" to see who can grab the most gold in a minute! The winner in that event is whoever has the most gold when the timer hits zero.
    Making this just a little bit more difficult is the fact bosses can gather gold as well in all modes and can win a level.  So sometimes, it's best to play the long game and work cooperatively for a time to kill the boss before it gets the gold, because players cannot reach the next level without actually working together and regardless of who wins- as long as it isn't a boss monster.

     All players begin with a simple harpoon with a quick jab attack that can kill small enemies and slow down other players, as well as a charged attack that gives you a short dash and does increased damage.  It also serves as a wonderful tool to quickly escape from bosses and a makeshift jump when out of the water.  Players can break open little skull shrines strewn among the levels to obtain special items such as a bubble shield for damage protection, throwing spears for long-ranged stabbery, dynamite bundles to blow up friends and enemies alike, and- my personal favorite- spiked boomerangs that can all be flung around to stun and damage enemies/bosses/other players and then re-caught for repeated use.  The devs made a pretty brilliant move in making these item caches respawn items continually throughout the matches.  It offers a nice rotation of things to make the battle for loot that much more hilariously intense.

     As for critiques of the game, honestly there isn't much to complain about.  I did find it a bit odd that you can't play without a controller, and there isn't an inbuilt online multiplayer (there are workarounds with Parsec), and- I cannot speak for everyone on this- I like the idea of couch co-op & pvp, but how many people have up to 4 controllers for a PC setup?
     But I digress, these are minor gripes.  The game's fun factor more than compensates for these petty issues, especially in the versatility of modes when the players set their own rules.

     In the end, Aqua Lungers may be reminiscent of Smash Brothers, but the added co-op element makes it one of those truly special games that perfectly straddles the line between co-op and competition that sets it ahead.  Aqua Lungers is an absolute gem of a game from newcomers WarpedCore Studio, and offers a ton of fun and replayability, and so I can safely say that I highly recommend it.  You don't need to invest much time to enjoy it either, it's an easy game to pick up and play for short bursts- for 10 minutes or 10 hours- it's just a really great time in the field of silly, yet skilled, watery warfare.

     Aqua Lungers on [ Steam ] [ Nintendo Switch ]

*Review copy provided for me, thank you!