A bearded fisherman standing on his boat acts as the title screen, central hub, and jumping off point for Ridiculous Fishing from indie developer Vlambeer. It’s a spruced up version of the studio’s earlier Radical Fishing, and you might marvel at the visuals here, a colourful style somewhere between origami and Paper Mario. The full logic behind the game’s title won’t become apparent, however, until you realise that the fisherman has an arsenal rivalling that of a small army onboard. It’s ridiculous, of course, and the set up for one of the better pick-up-and-play titles available for iOS devices.
Core gameplay is divided into three sections. The first is deceptively straightforward mobile fare, the object being to commandeer a fishing hook (via tilting) around aquatic creatures acting as obstacles. The ostensible goal of this section is to get the hook as deep as possible, yet the point at which it encounters an obstacle is not game over. Instead, the line is reeled in and the polarities of the game are reversed in favour of hooking fish on the way back to the surface (this reversal is accompanied by the literal reversal of the soundtrack, one of many neat aesthetic flourishes). An obvious point of comparison for this second stretch of gameplay, strange as it may seem, is the Katamari series – as with the expanding balls of bric-a-brac in those games, the bundle of accumulated sea life swinging at the end of the line here is an oddly satisfying sight to behold. There’s no time to get attached to it, though, because the gameplay (and soundtrack) shift yet again at the surface of the water, this time towards pure tactile joy. The fish are hurtled into the air, and the touch screen becomes the mechanism via which the player must harvest their catch in the least eco-friendly way imaginable. It may lack sophistication, elegance and taste, but the resulting maelstrom of blood and money holds a satisfaction all of its own.
Disparate as these elements may seem on paper, Vlambeer’s greatest achievement here is fusing the different styles that they’ve employed into a coherent gaming experience. The transition between them never feels disjointed, nor are the controls ever anything less than smooth and intuitive. It is, of course, a mobile game at heart, and follows a familiar template by punctuating gameplay with visits to an in-game store for upgrades and customisations. Refreshingly, in-app purchases are eschewed – the only money spent beyond the price of the app itself is that earned from fishing. The store also adds a collectable dimension to the core gameplay by offering an aquatic compendium (“Fish-O-Pedia”) to keep track of the species thus far encountered. It’s a nice touch in a game full of them, another notable example being satirical in-game social networking site “Byrdr”. These elements may not always impact directly upon the core of the game, but they do gild its edges, giving it a distinctive personality and atmosphere.
One area in which the game cannot stand apart, however, is its lack of depth. Vlambeer have, to their credit, crammed a lot of content in here. There are multiple fishing holes to dip into, and a wide selection of weapons and upgrades with which to experiment. By its very nature, though, the game is based on the repetition of a three-step process which, while enjoyable for a lot longer than it has any right to be, can begin to lose some of its lustre over time. Game Center integration brings leaderboards and high scores to the table, but the lasting appeal of a title like this beyond just another diversion on your phone’s home screen is questionable.
Overall, though, it’s hard to be negative about a game as good-natured (wanton animal slaughter aside) and well-packaged as this. It may lack substance in the long-term, but it provides an experience which is admirably oriented towards pure intuitive fun, presented in a way which is great to look at and humorous in tone. Many other titles would charge the full asking price of Ridiculous Fishing for only a fraction of its content, making this a stand out game in a heavily saturated market.