Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis released in 2003 for the Xbox and GameCube and was developed by Lucky Chicken Games. This game has you controlling the one, the only, Aquaman! But not the orange bodysuit wearing hero you might expect.
That’s right, the world finally gets a stand-alone Aquaman game and they use his divisive 1994 redesign. This saw an Aquaman that, among other changes, donned a hook for a hand after his left hand was eaten off by fish.
But hey, on the bright side, it’s still Aquaman. Arthur Curry himself. You have total access to all of his amazing abilities! Each one making this iconic superhero an established member of the Justice League. Powers like: swimming, breathing underwater and talking fish into doing things they really don’t want to do.
That’s not all of Aquaman’s powers but it’s all you get in this game! Don’t expect to see any of his other powers like the ability to speak any language on Earth, near invulnerability and even the power to manipulate the world’s oceans!
In good company
You see, much like that Batman game we looked at. And also, that Superman game we looked at. This game doesn’t establish the lore or background of its main protagonist at all.
Now look, we get it. Batman, Superman, these are VERY established characters. But you see, Aquaman is a little confusing. He has multiple variations of background stories. Heck, even his name could be different. So when this game begins with virtually no explanation of who ‘this’ Aquaman is it’s hard to follow anything that the game’s story throws at you.
So far everything about this game is a bit of a mess, right? But let’s get into it anyway and experience the game for what it is. Maybe we don’t need all that lore to enjoy the game. Let’s dive headfirst into Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis.
Now, normally we would start off with discussing the first level of the game. But we gotta be honest, we were immediately distracted by Aquaman’s glorious quaff! He has this golden, flowing hair that reacts to the water. It’s wonderful until it clips through his face! It was almost impressive. But then we get to the first cut scene of the game and there is a huge dip in the games attention to detail.
Flowing hair and cut scenes
The cut scenes are just a frame by frame comic book page played out with no voice acting, no sound effects and absolutely no animation. And Aquaman’s hair…well, it looks odd. Every other character is just using the 3D model from the game.
But it would appear that the complex underwater hair simulation of the game wasn’t something they could capture in a still frame. So they likely just made a bald model of Aquaman and painted overtop of every frame.
The cut scenes aren’t the only place they cut corners though. Let’s talk about the music in this game. In the cut scenes you get generic sounding tunes. And in-game it really doesn’t get any better.
The only sound effects you will hear are the basic sounds of punching, kicking, collecting items, and sometimes explosions. Which, by the way, they all sound like they’re happening on dry land. Which is incredible, seeing how this entire game takes place UNDER WATER!
Bland gameplay and design
Every stage is bland and colorless, it feels as though everything is lacking life. An incredible feat for Atlantis, a city that should have an enormous population. That feeling of emptiness is furthered by all the levels in the game being incredibly dark. The designers probably did this purposely because we’re all the way at the bottom of the ocean, I suppose.
If the sheer emptiness and visual jank hasn’t scared you away, what does the gameplay have to offer? Very little. Aquaman controls with one thumbstick to steer and the right trigger to propel forward. This means if you go upside down you don’t have any controls to reorient yourself. So you’ll have to wait for Aquaman to slowly do it himself.
This becomes an issue when combined with the dark visuals in these very confusing levels. You’ll be given a compass to steer you in the correct direction but you’ll likely get lost very easily. That compass will guide you time and time again into the wrong area, smacking up against walls or getting caught in corners.
It’s massively frustrating. And we haven’t even gotten to the worst part! Let’s talk about the combat! You flail your limbs about as you threateningly doggy paddle towards your enemies. And really, you just mash buttons randomly until the enemies disappear. There is a combat system but you won’t want to use it.
Aquaman can also use his special fish whispering powers to call his underwater friends for help. They just kind of pathetically headbutt enemies away, never to be seen again.
Despite all of this, we kept playing through Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis, barely treading our way through the whole experience. And eventually, along the way, we got to thinking that all of this seemed shockingly familiar…
It’s all connected
Floating around and beating up enemies? If you took away all that water and brighten things up, it would basically look just like another game we checked out previously, Superman: Man of Steel.
But there is no way at all that the development team behind Aquaman is related to Man of Steel right? Wrong. We dug through the credits of both games and made a shocking discovery. Senior people at DC Comics were involved in not only both of these games, but also… get this… Batman: Dark Tomorrow!
While companies shifted, the DC brand remained the same with largely the exact same people running it! And these DC folks are not involved in every DC game ever made, just a few and they happened to include these ones. Whether they had a creative role in these games we likely will never know.
Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis had an uphill battle. Taking a superhero deemed lesser by some and twisted into an awful game. It might have had a chance at one point in its development, but now?
It’s Just Bad.
There are good games, there are bad games and then there are Just Bad Games. Just Bad Games is a Rerez web-series that takes a look at some of the unnoticed bad games in video game history. As part of our review process we ensure we play through the entire game regardless of how difficult it may be on our souls. This ensures we have squeezed out every possible bad element of these Just Bad Games to showcase them to you – the viewer. If there’s a game you think should be covered as part of this series be sure to let us know in the comments below!