Overall Score 80%
The sea level is steadily rising. Humanity is pushed ever higher by the waters, struggling to survive - all thanks to the self-named King of the Seas, whose nefarious machinations have sealed the Six Drains. The underwater kingdoms are slaves to his rule and the Overlanders on the surface are rapidly running out of room.
Young Gobi (our hero, though I'm not sure if naming him after a desert was deliberate) is fishing in the area when a mystical sword, sent to find the saviour of the undersea world, shoots out of the water and destroys his boat. Gobi finds himself on the ocean floor, fortunately with his diving helmet on, the sword now a ring on his finger that returns to its deadlier form whenever danger threatens. There's a town up ahead - perhaps they can help, or at least explain what is going on.
Drains is a somewhat unusual game. Your task is to guide Gobi across the screen, occasionally battling enemies with a range of attacks. Combos of attacks can launch special moves, which you'll learn as you progress and can be seen on the character screen. Successful combat will gain Gobi experience and boost his abilities. But beware - his health is limited and you only have three lives. Lose them all and you'll have to start that area again from the beginning. Enemies can drop three kinds of orb - one replenishes health, one is used in certain special attacks and one can be spent in towns.
Controls are largely keyboard, but some mouse control is supported for menus at least. I think there may be gamepad support, though as I lack such a device I am unable to tell you. There are two attack keys and one block key for defence - pressing these in sequence can trigger combo attacks. Gobi can move in two dimensions - left/right and forward/back - as well as swim/jump over obstacles such as quicksand, but he can only swim up by a limited amount. The underwater motion makes for a much smoother and more controllable jumping system and captures the sense of being at the bottom of the sea rather well.
Drains is very pretty to look at - the 3D graphics are good quality, though they can be somewhat jerky when things get busy. There's a big demand on processing power there. This is probably the main reason why the game warns players of potential motion sickness! My computer is not exactly brand new but it struggled somewhat at times, and this was at the lowest resolution setting (which I can't recommend if you want to read the in-game manual, as it cut most of it off). You'll need to make sure your DirectX drivers are up to date too, but an installer is included in the game's folder if so. Graphics on the minimum resolution at least are not lined up well - my camera seemed to be constantly off centre, with Gobi often further right on the screen than I'd like (especially when most of your enemies come from that direction), and text and sometimes important items were occasionally cut off the edge.
A range of suitable sound effects accompany the action, including lots of underwater noises as well as the ringing of blade on blade. Gobi's wisecracks are great! A range of background music also accompanies Drains, and is definitely one of the game's highlights. Most of the character interaction, however, is plain text, which is a little disappointing when Gobi speaks so much in combat. There's also a voiceover for the intro sequence, and oddly this seemed much less professional than the incidental speech.
I have to confess, I find this game difficult, largely because of the sluggish nature of it. Gobi frequently dies despite my best keyboard mashing, and my prison break has proven so far fruitless because of it. If the game ran smoother I'd have a better chance of knowing which way I am facing and thus swinging my sword. Still, you have several save slots available to preserve your progress, and if you do perish, you can restart from the game map with a full 3 lives again, so with persistence you might do better than me! Given my lack of success I'm not really in any position to speak about the longevity - if you can get anywhere, I suspect you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of it. The schizoid controls don't really help - I suspect this is aimed at gamepad primarily and the keyboard is secondary, which may explain the occasional button mashing problems, but why support mouse at all in that case?
There's not really a huge range of replay here. The story is the same every time, though you can replay earlier levels at any point if you so wish. Perhaps this would allow me to level Gobi up and make a better go of it, but I suspect it will be a slow grind with the level 1 pufferfishes. You can try increasing the difficulty if you need more of a challenge!
Whether due to the limitations of my system or not, I don't know, but I found Drains too sluggish to get into. The story is straightforward but engaging, the sound is mostly top quality and the style of play is strikingly unusual, but it simply proved too difficult for me. Higher powered PCs may cope better than mine - I hope so, as this is a game that deserves some attention. Unfortunately it was unable to hold mine as much as it should.
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