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Mighty Fin

The release of Mighty Fin couldn’t have come at a more convenient time. Firstly, I’ve been seeking a decent iPhone game that works with one hand only for a while. A video game to play while stood up on public transport; much better than looking at the worn, early morning faces of other passengers as a grim wakeup call. Secondly, due to a persistent leak in my fish tank I recently had to let Batman, Arthur, Eric and The Dude go. Adopted by my parent’s pond, at least they’ll live their remaining days in the open air.

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Mighty Fin fills both these holes in my life, featuring a fish that can be controlled with a single finger; perfect. You control Fin, a cheeky little fishy who’s having a mid-life crisis. Bored of hanging around with his school and the daily routine, he wants something new, exciting and dangerous. Being a fish with no pockets or finger digits makes it difficult to save up. So Fin signs up for one of Shady Sal’s cheap vacations, a trip that’ll take him to eight glorious destinations. All Fin has to do is make his own way there and survive; that’s what you get for booking a cheap holiday on the black market.

The first priority on any holiday is to survive. Not something you’ll see on someone’s to-do-list, as it’s a given; unless you’re on one of Shady Sal’s holidays. You see, these locations vary from the unnecessarily dangerous to those with sub-zero temperatures. There are eight locations you’ll get to visit as long as you’re not eaten, impaled or used to coat the wall of an iceberg.

Booting the game up for the first time brings you to a long loading screen. What the game does is install the components it needs to your phone, permanently eliminating loading times. This is a brilliant idea, and one I’d like to see on all future iOS titles. For a portable game, the omission of loading times really helps the pick up and play factor.

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Once the one-time install is complete the pleasant theme tune kicks in (bringing to mind images of beeches and Mojito cocktails), and you’re greeted with a cartoon cut-out aesthetic. Bold white text boxes lay perfectly on top of the passing clouds and bright sunsets. It strikes a balance that’ll catch the younger eye, without causing adults to suffer from nausea due to any cuteness overload. The sound effects are well balanced too, with musical notes ascending as your multiplier increases.

The game is very simple to play. Place your finger on the screen and Fin will dive deeper into the ocean, let go and he’ll rise to the surface. That’s it. To leap out of the water, you’ll have to make him dive and then release your finger, propelling him through the surface of the water and out into the air.

Collecting points, finding costume bonuses and avoiding the deadly obstacles is made possible through one key factor: the point of gravity is at the water surface. This allows for a smooth level of control and a fluid gaming experience. Entering safe waters at the end of each location allows you to dive deep and leap up, out of the water, and out of the screen to splash back into the sea in a new location.

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The eight different holiday designations are partially randomised, allowing a slight variation with each play. However, this doesn’t hamper high score searching. Rather than everything in the level changing, the sections remain the same but occur in a random order. That submarine might suddenly appear earlier but you’ll remember that swooping underneath it provided a higher multiplier bonus. It stops the game from stagnating, keeps you alert and doesn’t prevent the user from becoming more experienced at the game.

Each level uses bold colours, providing the eyes with colourful candy to snack on. Not that you can admire the scenery for too long, as the levels can pick up to quite a rapid pace. The game moves at a good speed, as the background flies by and you narrowly dodge oncoming obstacles. You’ll have to guide Fin over lighthouses, through the wreckage of sunken vessels and under other sea creatures hungry for a fresh fish finger sandwich.

If you play the game to solely clear the levels then it won’t take you long at all. But if you stick around there are Endless versions of each level, as well as bronze, silver and gold medals for beating certain scores. Each location also contains a hidden costume piece to find that Fin can wear, an incentive to replay at least once, as well as additional pieces for receiving gold awards.

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Even with the Endless mode, in which you have to achieve a set target to win a gold medal, and the collectables to be found, this is still quite a short title. Having a few bonus levels only accessible using certain costumes would have been neat, with a clear indication of what level you needed to replay to find the appropriate remaining costume piece. This would have added a little replay factor, especially if these levels were completely bonkers and previously hidden, taking place in space or in the lava at the centre of the Earth. That’s the sort of location Shady Sal could no doubt bargain for a holiday.

Learning the patterns and hitting a streak of multipliers is fun, as well as collecting all the costumes, but how often you’ll visit these eight, luxurious vacation locations will depend entirely on your level of addiction to high score leaderboards. And on a side-point, the iPhone Game Centre often loses connection when I’m travelling, causing irritating pop-ups telling me so or losing leaderboard and achievement progress. And that’s with all notifications apparently turned off. But that’s a grumble with the iPhone itself, and not particular to this title.

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Whilst playing the game I’d often get a strong 8-bit vibe, harking back to the speedboat level of Alex Kidd in Miracle Land: simple, colourful and fun. While not containing an extensive range of content, Mighty Fin does provide a consistently enjoyable experience on the move, one devoid of frustration or a ‘buy in-game credits’ system. This is one of a current trend of titles that feels both old and new, quickly hooking you in and reeling you back for one last playthrough. Fin.

Review based on version 1.0

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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