Ah, fishing — the most peaceful of sports. What fisherman isn’t looking forward to a relaxing getaway when he or she reaches for the bait, the lure, the grenades and dynamite? Oh, wait, those last two aren’t normal fishing gear, you say? You certainly wouldn’t know it from Eye Interactive and Alcomi’s latest title, where the goal is to use any means necessary to Stop Those Fish (Out Now, $1.99)!
Commanding three bears who’ve taken their feud with marine life to a most unnatural conclusion, the player swipes over the touchscreen to hurl explosives in hopes of catching one or more fish in every blast. This is easier said than done, because the fish get smarter with level progression. Marlin like to dive bomb the boats from above, hammerheads rush in to earn their namesake, and one especially dastardly creature I don’t have a name for intelligently dodges anything aimed straight at it, forcing the player to corner it with multiple bombs.
With performance-earned coins strategically spent on upgrades between levels, Stop Those Fish will remind players quite a bit of last October’s Zombie Samurai — also a title Eye Interactive and Alcomi collaborated on. Both have level-based gameplay and yet challenge the player to an overarching resource management dilemma: it’s difficult to save coins for major upgrades when you’re nickeled and dimed for repairs and ammo reloads every step of the way. Unfortunately for new players, part of the challenge here is that it’s not clear what many upgrades do. There are no descriptions in the shop menu or in the game’s static tutorial, so you have to doom your first couple playthroughs with experimentation. To save you some trouble if you pick this one up: the left-hand shop icon upgrades the selected bear’s boat and ammo, while the right-hand one grants a temporary shield. Special weapons usually change the bears’ ammunition once their virtual buttons are toggled on.
As long as you can gloss over that unfortunate shortcoming, Stop Those Fish makes for smooth sailing. Seasoned players will figure out that the key to long-term survival is to rake in cash from combos. These are scored by blowing up entire schools of fish with one explosive or knocking off widely separated enemies in quick succession. Stop Those Fish has a thoroughly addictive “one more try” charm, with each attempt bringing the player just a little further in. It’s important to note that a re-try is often best attempted from the very beginning, because a string of slip-ups easily corners the player into situations where resources are simply too low to survive no matter which way you might replay the current level. To give the player a break, the game lets gold pass from an abandoned playthrough into a new one, and this is an incredibly welcome touch. A few challenge modes that mix up the normal formula – making fish harder to see or starting off with fully upgraded boats but more enemies – await the expert player, and these provide some much needed goals to work up to.
Stop Those Fish carries on the line drawing genre’s tradition of excellent interfaces. While Game Center and OpenFeint achievements are available as expected, this game does something particularly notable in being the very first implementation of P4RC — think OpenFeint on steroids because it lets players earn reward points for achievements, just like a fancy credit card. I’ll have you know I’m 10% of the way to an Amazon gift card, and I sure hope other developers integrate P4RC so I can finish what I’ve started here!
Stop Those Fish underwhelms on a Retina display, where its hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds suffer from a bit of haze. Its twangy guitar soundtrack – weighing in at two clips total – also wears thin quickly, but at least the game is quite friendly to external music. Stop Those Fish has just the right addictive quality to lend it tons of replay value, so players will squeeze plenty of entertainment out of this one.
iFanzine Verdict: A simple but surprisingly addictive title that line drawing and casual action fans would do well to check out if they enjoy games where starting over from scratch is all part of the fun. A general lack of information about upgrades can make things tricky for the wrong reason though, and this is something worth addressing in updates.