Hydrophobia is back for the hat trick, and hoping the third time is a charm. Dark Energy Digital’s water-powered adventure makes its debut on the PlayStation Network, and brings Move controls along for the ride.

I have to confess: I’ve never seen the same game literally re-released three times over in an attempt to truly get it ‘right.’ Dark Energy Digital are either: a) the most persistent S.O.B’s known to mankind; b) obsessive compulsive to unholy levels; c) unwilling to let criticism go unchecked; d) all of the above. My gut is leaning toward the fourth option.

If the game sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve literally read a review of it just a year ago on this very same Web site. In this instance, it was ‘Hydrophobia (pure),’ an XBOX Live, updated version of Hydrophobia. The sequel – as Mr. Hilliard described – literally addressed every criticism heaped on the original, to include gameplay, controls and graphic improvements. ‘Prophecy’ – 13 months later and on PlayStation Network (PSN) – adds little to the proverbial mix. Well, except a new platform to take the game for a spin on, combined with some in-game minor tweaks.

The plot remains literally the same: tech lovers versus tech haters, trapped on a big, bad boat…fate of humanity rests in the balance. The protagonist – Kate - as attractive as ever, albeit with either the most irritating natural or pretend accent I’ve ever encountered. In hearing Kate, I couldn’t help but recall Pirates of Ghost Island, perhaps the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and – in specific – Noa Geller’s confounding, constant declaration that ‘she wanted go hoooooome.’ Déjà’ vu of accent hell is back.

The star remains the HydroEngine, a dynamic, physics-based water variable, one where the ebb and literal flow of water significantly alters the way Hydrophobia is played. Waves move randomly and realistically, impacted by character and object interactions. Kate will literally struggle against rolling tides, also find floating objects bobbing along realistically as environmental mechanics change. Gotta’ see it to truly appreciate it.

In tandem, fire and electrical explosions will react accordingly. It truly is breathtaking to watch oil catch fire, its reflection dance along a passing wave. Damage logically accompanies the HydroEngine (see: Havok reference below), as Kate can die from fire exposure and/or drowning. Conversely, knock a baddy out via stun gun, watch him unconsciously drown to death from water flowing in via unlocked door.

Hydrophobia embraces its cool factor, as points tally up via combo meters of damage and destruction. Chain an explosion…to released wave…teeing up electrocution…finally death to a bad guy…and the points roll in. This game is trophy porn, so cool combos result in oodles of PSN trophies.

This PSN version of Hydrophobia also features Move support, albeit average at best. Move control is useful for precision gun aiming, but an abomination at simple camera manipulation. Somewhere a sad clown sees the humor in an endlessly spinning camera, one unleashed every time Kate attempts to grab an overhead platform just above high- level water. And this, my Donnie Darko fans, occurs very often. Since the game’s developers appear keen on patching the hell out of this to no end, perhaps an auto-center, Move-based camera is in order for Hydrophobia (pistachio), or what alternate parenthesis iteration awaits the next great platform adoption. I do like pistachios, for those keeping score at home.

Graphics and sound remain solid for a downloadable title, but sprite glitching and rough edges were a bit too frequent. I also hold a minor beef with enemy A.I., not-so-clever folks who clearly didn’t take a lesson from Batman: Arkham City. Seek cover, move stealthfully, and triangulate the sole dude the three of you are trying to take out. Instead, I have the bad guy version of bulls running in Pamplona, holding glaring flashlights as ‘aim here!’ markers. (C’mon, people, work with me.)

Taken in its entirety and to be shamelessly blunt: Hydrophobia (prophecy) can – like its two predecessors – arguably be declared an awesome tech demo surrounded by an average game. A couple hours in, the potential of the HydroEngine is excitingly obvious. No wonder these guys keep patching it: each iteration is like putting Bubblelicious into already good bubble gum ice cream. Moreover, Dark Energy Digital overlaid HydroEngine with the terrific Havok one, a wonderful physics-based royale with cheese to create a solid environmental experience.

Despite the coolness, Hydrophobia (‘prophecy’) – due to its game versus engine limitations – ultimately can’t escape its fate as a semi-polished, download title. For instance, I dig the ability to cipher code, hack, and perform a slew of tech things. Ditto for Kate’s ability to traverse a number of terrain types. Both components, however, are missing a realistic ‘feel’ to them, the seamless integration that other action/adventure games embrace first and foremost (e.g. ‘Mass Effect 2’). Hopefully future iterations of the series will shift toward improving the overall toy store versus the coolest gameplay engine on the aisle.

Hydrophobia (prophecy) capably brings this watery franchise and its terrific HydroEngine to the shores of the PS3. Move support does little to distinguish it from last year’s ‘pure’, making it a good…but not great download title for those new to the series.

  • Fantastic HydroEngine
  • Hydrophobia gets even more upgrades
  • PlayStation Move support
  • Too much rehash
  • Frustrating camera controls
  • Lack of polish
Quote: "Move support does little to distinguish it from last year’s ‘pure’, making it a good…but not great download title for those new to the series."
Reviewed by Paul Stuart | 11.13.11

Similar Games: Hyrdopobia: Pure (8.7)



Xbox Live Arcade

Dark Energy


US Release
November '11


Xbox Live Arcade

Player 1
PS Move Support