There are two things you need to know about cats: they’re planning to kill us all and they love milk. The first one doesn’t have much to do with Aqua Kitty, that’s just general life advice. In Aqua Kitty UDX, the feline race has run out of their beloved dairy beverage and decided the only way to get their paws on more is to mine underneath the sea. It may sound illogical but so is the thought of a cat milking a cow, it’s best just to go with it.
Unfortunately for the cats, an army of mechanical sea creatures want nothing more than to put a stop to this and so it’s up to you to put a stop to them putting a stop to you. Do you follow? Don’t worry if you don’t because in execution Aqua Kitty UDX couldn’t be simpler. It’s a spin on the 1981 classic: Defender. In the four or so hours you spend with the game you’ll be blasting down enemy ships while traversing through a constantly looping battleground. Just like Defender, you can only shoot directly in front of you which makes movement far more limited than most other shooters.
Being limited is a key component of Aqua Kitty UDX though. You’ll start each level with a puny blaster that can barely penetrate a single enemy but as you collect upgrades your tiny ship will become a swimming torpedo of death. You’ll find upgrades that allow you to shoot in multiple directions, you’ll obtain more health or encounter screen clearing bombs that can deal with even the deadliest of foes. In the classic mode, growth is perhaps a tad slow to start but there’s nothing quite like having that eventual power at your fingertips and being able to take down swarms of mechanical beasts. I just wish there were a few more powerups as you’ll see the majority of what the game has to offer in only the first handful of levels.
Arcade mode is slightly different, it’s essentially the same setup apart from upgrades are handled in an alternative manner. Instead of picking them up from enemy drops you’ll instead be able to purchase them with gems. It somewhat elevates my problem with the slow windup, however you’ll still start each level stripped of any items and the lack of diversity is felt just as strongly here as it is in the Classic Mode.
So with so many clones of Defender over the years, including 2017’s Graceful Explosion Machine, what makes Aqua Kitty UDX stand out? Well, that’s arguably where the game falls a little flat. Sure, it’s a great entry in its genre with smooth controls and solid difficulty progression but outside of its feline mascots there isn’t a great deal to make Aqua Kitty UDX truly unique. It does have a wonderful co-op mode though, where you and a buddy can take on the treacherous oceans together. This is a great fit for the Nintendo Switch and gives it a slight edge against Graceful Explosion Machine which was strictly a single player game (although I personally prefer the mechanics of GEM).
Levels feature an array of leaderboards for each independent mode and if you’re a high score junky then you can get some serious value out of Aqua Kitty UDX. Every time you destroy an enemy you’ll notice a counter in the corner of the screen jump up, if you don’t blow anything else up for a few seconds, the counter will fall. If you’re seeking a respectable place on the leaderboard you’ll want to not only destroy enemies within moments of each other but do so while also avoiding every single shot coming your way and ensuring none of the mechanical monsters steal any of your kitten colleagues.
If high scores aren’t your style then Aqua Kitty UDX may feel a bit on the short side. Finishing Classic mode took me just over two hours and it was difficult to distinguish a large chunk of levels from the last. It’s a lot more fun playing along with a friend but if anything that’ll just make the journey even shorter with the diminished level of difficulty.
Aqua Kitty UDX does feature an entirely new mode though in the way of Dreadnought where instead of protecting your mining facility from enemies, you’re the one doing the attacking. These levels have you swimming around an enemy base and destroying everything in sight. It’s an interesting twist and the smaller levels makes for far more compact action scenes, but it doesn’t do a whole lot to change the core focus of the game. It may often change where you are but it rarely changes how you’re doing it.
Aqua Kitty UDX does one thing really well and it sticks with it from beginning to end. The upbeat music and jolly visuals go hand in hand with that sentiment as while they’re a pleasure to behold at first, you’ll slowly start to feel like you’ve seen it all. Perhaps it’s a good thing the game ends so soon as any longer and this Kitty might have just fallen to the bottom of the ocean. It’s by no means an unenjoyable game – quite the opposite in fact – but there are just other games out there that do more interesting things with the genre. Those games may not feature underwater cats but contrary to what the internet may have you believe… cats don’t always make everything better.