Waterway Micro-Review: A Little Wet Behind The Ears

Rough Cookie's Waterways is a top-down puzzler that uses water management to provide an interesting twist to the classic concept of getting the hero, in this case a blocky cow, from one end of a maze to the other.

Published by Taito, the game won the 2008 Japan GameJam Competition, but can it win the cold, stone heart of a Kotaku reviewer?

Loved
Aesthetic: Rough Cookie, the developers behind Star Defense, did a fantastic job of blending a cartoon look with a toy-like design in a way that isn't overly Boom Blox creepy or LEGO cutsey. Plus the main character is a cow. There's also goats and ducks. And water; water that sloshes around the screen, moving everything floating in it when you tilt your iPhone. Waterways is as much fun to watch as it is to play.

Puzzling Challenges: The basic idea of Waterways is that you have to get the cow to a valve on the other side of the screen to shut down the level's water. To do this you tap a path for the cow to walk.
But the top-down 3D maze game has a twist: Water, lots of it. And you can raise and lower the water by opening valves or tilting the phone.
To navigate the byways of Waterways you will also have to raise and lower color-coded bridges by sloshing water into the color-coded sides of the screen with a tilt of your iPhone. As you slosh the water around, the water level drops. Eventually it will drop to a dirt floor, putting some areas out of reach and others within reach.
The concept, and the fact that as you play through the game the developers continue to build on it, gives Waterways a fresh approach to a stale genre.

Hated
Level Access and Save System: You'd think it would be hard to hate something that nearly doesn't exist, but I do. Waterway, for all of its wonderful game design and interesting graphics, seemed to forget that it's sometimes nice to play through a title from beginning to end without having to start over every time. When exited, the game's campaign mode resets itself. Apparently no matter how far into the game you are. You can go into Level Select screen to drop into a particular level, but playing that way forces you to manually switch between levels as you move forward. That's a really bad, easy to fix problem in this game.

Waterways is a colorful game, both in art design and concept. There are some fatal flaws that hamper the long-term playability of the game, but as a concept it's a unique and oddly soothing addition to the bloated world of iPhone games.

Waterways was developed by Rough Cookie and published by Taito for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Retails for $2.99 USD. Played through two-thirds of the game's levels.

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