Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mizubaku Daibouken (Liquid Kids)


It's easy to make comparisons between Liquid Kids and Taito compatriot New Zealand Story. Both are cartoony platformers that have you collect goodies and defeat baddies that materialize from who-knows-where. Rather than slaying your foes via bow and beam a la Tiki Kiwi, you do your LK dirty work with "bubble bombs," which typically freeze a creature upon contact and render it a convenient koopa-shell-type weapon that can be utilized against its allies.

Levels proceed in every which direction, and as you explore them, you'll want to keep an eye out for concealed entrances to warp chambers, where you may discover a not-so-subtle NZS reference.

LK presents a more aesthetically appealing adventure than does NZS. Its music is completely forgettable, which means it's superior to PCE NZS's memorable cacophony. Graphically, it rates better than adequate, nice and bright without any of PCE NZS's tonal missteps.

While well-done visuals and, uh, not completely terrible music are worthy of compliment in light of poor Zealand Story's superficial failings, LK deserves praise mostly for its bosses, who are tricky, cunning, surprisingly dangerous bastards...

...especially the fiery final guy, who doesn't stay down after just one fall and who would most certainly laugh in the face of NZS's walrus chump.

But while our scorecard reads "Advantage: LK" in most categories in this 'toony Taito rumble, NZS is actually the better game. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I much prefer Zealand's cute kiwi and his neat arsenal to LK's whatever-the-hell-he-is and his freeze bubbles. More importantly, NZS features superior level designs. Sure, the stages in both games proceed in similar fashions and contain similar enemy and obstacle types. But there's nothing in LK that requires as much skill as the toughest and most cleverly planned balloon rides, swimming sections, and spike gauntlets in NZS, and it's NZS that ultimately emerges as the more challenging, rewarding, and enjoyable of the two titles.

The real problem for Liquid Kids isn't that it doesn't quite measure up to New Zealand Story. Both are nice games to own regardless of which one is better. LK's problem is that it can be kind of expensive, commonly appearing with an asking price of $40 or higher (occasionally a lot higher). Any old game related to or derivative of Bubble Bobble, no matter how remote the connection may be, will be of skewed "value." I'm not one of those people who automatically adore such titles, and I don't believe LK is worth nearly what it frequently sells for.

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