A lot of great game developers are fascinated with fishing. Pokémon, Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Animal Crossing all feature the option to fish. Earthbound/Mother creator Shigesato Itoi created a series of fishing games. Former Sup Holmes guest Sophie Houlden wants to make a game where every system is based on fishing.
What is it that makes fishing such a compelling mechanic to developers? Ridiculous Fishing helps to answer that question. It's takes all of the moment-to-moment experiences associated with fishing (calm, anticipation, surprise, disappointment, pride, shame, epiphany) and turns them all up to appropriately ridiculous levels of intensity. That's why it's the best fishing game.
Ridiculous Fishing (iPad, iPhone [reviewed])
Released: March 14, 2013
Like real-life fishing, Ridiculous Fishing is simple enough on the surface, but once you sink past that surface, you'd be surprised at the depths you'll plunge to. The game utilizes three phases of interconnected gameplay types to make every round of casting into a three-act adventure in and of itself.
First is the "dodge" phase. After casting your line, your goal is to dodge as many fish as possible in order to make your way as low as you can go. This runs counter-intuitive to your fishing instincts, as it pays off when you get to phase two. The farther down the briney depths you sink, the more types of fish you pass, with each new breed being more exotic and valuable than the last.
When you hit a fish or reach the end of your line, your line starts its way back to the surface. That's when the "catch" phase begins. Now you play the aggressor and work to catch all those fish that you ran in fear from while passing them by in the "dodge" phase. The more fish you grab, the more fish you'll reach the surface with for the "shoot" phase. This is the part of the game where you fling your fish into the air and blast as many of them as you can with various firearms. It is ridiculous.
These three phases work on the "Pac-Man principles" of design. You're first made to feel afraid of making contact with other in-game characters, putting you in a nail-biting mode of heightened awareness as you negotiate a maze of threats and obstacles. That tension builds until the "power-pellet moment" of phase two, where the tables are turned and you work to aggressively gobble up everything that you were running from mere moments before. That rush of "get it while you can" is then turned up a notch in phase three where you have seconds to cash in on the lives of your defenseless quarry.
It's an amazing formula, which is probably why the game's predecessor Radical Fishing was "admired" enough to be shamelessly ripped off by a-game-which-will-remain-nameless-as-to-reduce-how-successful-it-may-become. Suffice to say, Vlambeer (the developers of Radical Fishing and Ridiculous Fishing) had something to prove here. They had to make a game that not only made Radical Fishing totally obsolete, but would also completely outclass the game that ripped them off as well.
Vlambeer's personal drive to create the very best iteration of the Radical Fishing concept has paid off for all of us. Everything about the game has been maxed out in both content and quality. There is huge amount of fish to catch, each with their own behaviors and level of scarcity. Some of which actual steal money from you if you catch them, which is a great way to turn the the formula on its head. There are fish that can only be caught at certain times of day, in certain areas of the map, or otherwise require some unconventional means of discovery. There are even boss fish battles. No expense was spared in the creation of this world of fish and the people who kill them.
The more types of fish you discover, the more areas on the world map you unlock, and the more money you're likely to acquire to use toward purchases of the game's many (often hilarious) items. There are loads of different guns, lures, and other items to collect, all of which add gameplay twists, but are never overpowered. This speaks to the game's finely tuned difficulty curve, which never leaves you feeling hopeless, but always gives you the idea that you may do just a little bit better after just "one more game."
When you're not fishing, you can explore the game's largely optional narrative through the in-game Twitter parody Byrdr. What seems like a inconsequential trifle at first quickly unfolds to be quite an emotionally charged tale, which makes sense considering that it the ARG was written by The Stanley Parable creator Davey Wreden. The theme of redemption and questioning of self worth are perfectly in tune with the life of a fisherman.
The art direction here utilizes an angular mosaic style that evoke the strengths of sprite-based graphics without leaning on the idea of "retro" appeal. The abstract look exudes an unpredictable, playful character that's the perfect fit for a game called "Ridiculous Fishing." The music is simple and strange, also a perfect fit for a game with such a name.
Yes, perfect is the word for Ridiculous Fishing. Everything comes together to deliver a cohesive whole that works to alternate between making you smile, making you wonder, and most of all, making you want more. Thankfully, the game is quick to offer more. Just when you think you've seen the end, there's a new area, new item, a new kick in the storyline, or new fish to savor.
Ingeniously designed, continuously compelling, painstakingly crafted, dripping with personality, packed with content -- I like everything about Ridiculous Fishing.