If you’re as much of a sucker for heartstring-tugging stories about cute animals in peril as I am, then you’re probably going to really like Pet Fish Rescue (out now, free). The game opens to a scene of a mother fish and a baby fish merrily bobbing around in the ocean, minding their own business, when suddenly they’re scooped up by a fisherman’s net and transported to a pet shop, where they’re put on display in separate bowls. As the player, it’s up to you to stage a rescue and reunite these poor souls.

How will you accomplish such a task, you ask? Why, through match-3 gameplay, of course! At the outset of each of Pet Fish Rescue’s levels, there’s a tightly packed wall of sea creatures keeping mother and baby apart. Your goal is to match up rows of same-colored critters in order to clear a pathway for the baby fish to reach his Mama. If you fail to do so within a set amount of moves, you lose a life. It’s a fairly interesting twist on the match-3 formula, and the game does a good job of keeping things fresh with increasingly tricky challenges and twists like power-ups. Sadly though, once you run out of lives, the fun abruptly grinds to a halt.

If you find yourself out of lives after one too many screw-ups, you’ve got three options: 1) wait 24 hours before you’re able to play again, 2) hook the game up to Facebook and ask your friends to gift you lives, or 3) buy lives via in-app purchase. Being an impatient guy, I tried the latter option. But, unfortunately, tapping the ‘pay to get more lives now’ button does nothing; it doesn’t trigger the usual ‘confirm your in-app purchase’ prompt, it doesn’t give you more lives, nothing! I’m not sure whether this is a device-specific bug (I tested the game on an iPad mini 2) or something more widespread, but I’m guessing either way the developer will probably fix the issue sooner rather than later. Pet Fish Rescue is a free game with no ads, so players not being able to make IAPs has got to be hurting their bottom line.

That irritating bug aside, I’d still recommend Pet Fish Rescue. Its accessible nature, charming story, and overall cheery aesthetic make it a game that’s aimed primarily at a younger audience, but there’s certainly plenty for older players to enjoy too. 

Verdict

Boasting an irresistibly cutesy aesthetic, adorable characters and fun gameplay, Pet Fish Rescue is an enjoyable match-3 puzzler that deserves to make a splash with younger mobile gamers.

Positives
Fresh twist on match-3 gameplay
Sweet, heart-string pulling story
Cheerful visuals and music
No annoying ads
Negatives
The 'pay to get more lives now' option doesn't seem to work
3.5
Very Good
Download on the App Store