14Cyberia, Chaos Control, and Wingnuts are just a few attempts to lure arcade fans with flashy graphics, fast action and straightforward gameplay. Then appeared Wetlands, New World Computing’s stab at creating an interactive shooter. Unfortunately for gamers, it fails to avoid many of the pitfalls that plague its predecessors. Wetlands does deliver on the narrative element, with a futuristic plot that casts you as a bounty hunter named Cole, hot on the trails of an escaped prisoner. Your objective is to locate this fugitive by entering a secretive underwater world.

It’s pretty effective storytelling, brought to life by blending the stylized, two-dimensional look and feel of an adult-oriented comic book with sharply rendered 3D objects and environments. This gives the narrative element a lot of bang for the buck, but once you enter the game’s action sequences you’ll soon realize that an attractive style and interesting setting isn’t enough to make up for average and sometimes frustrating gameplay.

Part of the problem lies in the setting itself. Much of the game takes place in dark corridors or on the ocean floor, and the game screens during these sequences are often terribly dark, giving you little opportunity to identify targets until it’s too late. While this could be seen as part of the challenge, it seems more an oversight by the designers than an intentional element of the game. You do get some help identifying targets from your onboard computer, but during the more demanding levels it’s frequently too little, too late.

Then there’s the nature of the sequences themselves, which offer the player only minimal control during gameplay. Basically, you’re set on a predetermined path that bobs and weaves through each environment as wave after wave of enemy ships, soldiers or other targets of opportunity pass by. While most of these sequences are great to look at, the lack of any control over where you’re going leaves you just pointing and shooting at everything that moves, and hoping you won’t have to replay the level more than once. Add to that the sluggish response time with either mouse or joystick, and Wetlands begins to drag to a halt.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, DOS

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