Developer: Chillingo
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

According to a little red crab, everything’s better down where it’s wetter. Why not find out for sure? Scuba Diver Adventures: Beyond the Depths by Chillingo makes a valiant effort to give players a glimpse of life under da sea. In some regards it succeeds at conveying the peaceful, silent atmosphere it’s going for. However, some control issues also make the game worthy of a deep, Squidward-like frown.

Scuba Diver Adventures is an adventure/simulation game where players slip into a wetsuit and take on the role of Nicole, a former adventurer/diver who’s been reluctantly pulled back into her old life thanks to her former partner, Eddie. Nicole travels to diving sites around the world in order to collect treasure, take photos, and interact with sea life.

scubadiver_03Scuba Diver Adventures‘ gameplay is divided into different missions, each of which ends when Nicole meets a specific goal. She may need to retrieve a specific item, or feed fish, or take high-quality photographs of the coral and the lovely fishy things that live within it.

It’s a neat premise, and Scuba Diver Adventures‘ gentle blue waters and wildlife (that is, the ones that don’t torpedo towards the player with teeth bared) are truly relaxing to behold. Less relaxing, however, is having to struggle with the game’s controls.

A virtual thumbstick on the left side of the screen is supposed to make Nicole swim, and the right side of the screen is supposed to let her look up, down, and around. It doesn’t always work as cleanly as it’s supposed to, and sometimes the controls will reverse themselves or just quit working altogether. The jumbled movements become a particular problem when Nicole needs to work within a time limit (which is often, since her oxygen tank is constantly depleting), push around an item, or keep up with swift aquatic life.

There’s also the issue of panhandling. Scuba Diver Adventures is free-to-play game, which means gameplay limitations. For instance, it’s quite easy for Nicole to run out of oxygen while diving, forcing her to abort missions before they’re completed. Of course, the option to buy more oxygen with hard currency (diamonds, in this case) is made very clear.

scubadiver_04The constant threat of dwindling oxygen is enough to bust up Scuba Diver Adventures‘ rhythm. It’s not much fun when a game that’s supposed to be relaxing dangles a time limit over players’ heads. Even crummier is how the game constantly pitches equipment upgrades that cost diamonds. Sheesh! Just let a diver photograph some stingrays, huh?

Despite its problems, Scuba Diver Adventures: Beyond the Depths offers interesting diving experiences while letting the player stay dry. Some retooling of its controls might give the game a chance to gleam like a pearl.

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