Unfortunately this seems to be the case here with Halfbrick’s latest game, Fish Out Of Water!. After absolutely blowing people away with creative games like Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride, the anticipation for Halfbrick’s “next big thing” was very high, possibly more than the studio could have ever lived up to.
Fish Out Of Water! is a charming casual fish tossing game played in three rounds. In each round, players select one of six unique fish and toss it across the water, trying to get it to skip/swim/hop across the ocean and travel as far as possible. At the end of the three rounds, players are judged on both total distance and total number of skips by a panel of crabby judges (quite literally…they are crabs).
Each of the fish has its own unique character and properties in the way in which they skip and move across/in the water and you must take this into consideration when selecting your tossing fodder. The weather in the game changes every hour and this too must be taken into consideration as it will have either a positive or negative effect on different species’ abilities as well. So there is a bit of strategy involved here.
The only real control that players exert on their fish is at launch time when they decide both the angle and strength of their toss when flicking their finger. Unlike many ‘go farther’ style games, there is very little for the player to do once the fish toss has happened. Sure, there is a limited boost which can be triggered (by tapping on the screen) to try to help the fish go farther, but it must be used sparingly as it is not reset between tosses. You may pick up ‘boosties’ along the way which will refill the boost bar, but that’s about it. The boost bar runs down very quickly and once you run out of boost, there is really nothing more to do other than to just watch the fish swim/skip/bounce and hope he hits a boostie so you can do something again. After Jetpack Joyride, large portions of the game just feels too hands-off. In fact, for much of the air time it is almost like you are riding a Jetpack Joyride second chance bomb blast with zero control.
A number of elements have been implemented by Halbrick to try to drive longevity and repeat play. The first of which is the achievements and leaderboards. As with Olympic diving and television dancing competitions, the judges scores top out at 10.0. So once you’ve achieved that (which is not easy, but not overly difficult either) why play more? That’s where the daily leaderboards and league play come in. Players can join leagues and their best score of the day is factored into the total for the league, encouraging you to play every day so you don’t let down your team. While I’m happy that Halfbrick has chosen to implement a cap on the number of members in a league, it is still fundamentally broken (just like in Nimble Quest) where the biggest leagues will always rule the leaderboards just due to sheer numbers (usually TouchArcade). Halfbrick needs to either use an average or do something to normalize the number across any size league so that small and large leagues can compete on an even playing field. In the meantime, I joined the ‘148apps’ league to try to have a better shot at being in the top ten.
Another ‘replay’ element is the leveling up missions and charms. There is a rolling set of missions with things like get a total of 15 points from the judges or throw any fish a total of 300 meters, which, when accomplished, help you toward leveling up. When you do so you get to select one of three treasure chests filled with crystals. These crystals can then be joined in different color combos that form charms which give you some sort of advantage in your next game. This could be the addition of 100m to your next throw or the mean judge Harwood automatically scoring you with a 10. These are unnecessary for getting good scores, but certainly help. Crystals can also be purchased in packs for fairly hefty sums of real money (50 for $4.99 or $250 for $14.99).
All of the gameplay elements come together in a nice casual way, but it just feels like something is missing. Honestly for me, Fish Out Of Water! is a bit of a let down, and as it stands, it doesn’t feel like a game that will hold my attention long-term (or maybe even past this week) despite the many ‘replay’ elements. There just isn’t enough there to keep me engaged or wanting to come back for more. In the short-term there are achievements to earn and experimentation with different weather conditions, but the league sizing issue has left me a little soured and wondering what’s the point.
All is not lost though, as the many people seem to forget that both Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride developed and grew A LOT over time. New game modes were introduced and items were added to expand and flush out these gaming experiences into the hits they are today. That being said, I do feel like the foundations of both of those titles were a little bit stronger than Fish Out Of Water! longevity-wise, but I can easily see Halfbrick taking this fish tossing game platform and building upon it over the next year to make it something that will win back and capture players’ attentions for the long-haul.
Fish Out Of Water! is a fun and charming casual game, but in its current form, lacks the long-term appeal of Halfbrick’s earlier hits. I fully expect (and hope) to see the game grow and mature in the coming months to become a hit on par with both Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride.