Fish Tank Review – Matching Fish Can Be Fun for a While
Fish Tank is an arcade-style matching game from iFun4all, in the vein of Columns or DynoGems. However, instead of matching gems or blocks, you are matching colors of fish, and the gameplay happens horizontally, not vertically.
Different colors of fish swim from the left-hand side of the screen to a 5×8 grid on the right-hand side of the screen. You control their up and down movement and guide them into rows, though it can be a little tricky telling just which row they are going to end up in.
Unlike most of these games, the matched groups don’t automatically vanish when you reach the minimum number in a row (four in this case even though it refers to itself as a match three game). You need to do it manually by pressing a button (X for the first, O for the second, Triangle for the third), which gets superimposed over the group of matches.
So there is a great deal of strategy as to when you should cash in your matched fish. The bigger the group, the more points it is worth, and you also get more points if you cash in more than one group at a time. Also complicating matters is a large number of power-ups. These drift along like the fish, and you play them by hitting the L button. Most of these have good effects, but some will remove fish without adding to your score, which can be a mixed blessing.
The game is over when a certain number of fish has been killed. This dire event happens when a fish enters a row that is already full of fish. The new fish takes the leftmost spot and pushes all the other fish in the row one spot to the right. The fish already all the way to the right gets killed most horribly, in an explosion of gore—a splotch of red and its skeleton drifting away. A sure way to give children nightmares, because the fish are so cute. Or were, before you murdered them!
There are two modes, arcade mode and challenge mode. In both cases you keep playing until a certain amount of fish is killed, but arcade mode has no goals (other than a high score), while challenge mode does—generally to reach a given score with certain factors. For instance, no power-ups, or the fish moving very slowly or quickly. Or not even allowing a single fish to die.
There are 24 different challenges, and in each one you can win a different medal (well, seashell), depending on your final score. What’s a bit weird, though, is that after you have unlocked the gold seashell, the game still keeps on going. While I imagine this is deliberate, as it keeps the high score for each one, the early challenges are extremely easy; you only have two colors of fish. So you can pretty much play forever, or at least until you get sick of it and deliberately kill fish—which thanks to the gory effects, makes you feel like you have blood on your hands. Sorry, Charlie.
The graphics are very nicely detailed and cute. I’m not sure a colorblind person could differentiate between every fish model, though it’s possible, as they seem to be different for each color. The quick pace makes it seem like it wouldn’t be suitable for them, though. I know I have a hard time telling which power-up is which.
The sound effects are minimal—I guess fish don’t scream when they die. You get treated to the same background song over and over. It’s not bad, and it wouldn’t be out of place in a Japanese RPG, as it sounds like something being played while you are in town in one of those, but it does get a bit old after a while.
While the concepts aren’t new, the implementation is original, so it feels quite different from similar matching games and is fun in short bursts. However, I thought the difficulty was far too easy at first. While games can suffer from being too hard at first, being much too easy at first is also a problem. It wasn’t until the eighth challenge (basically one third of the way into them) that I didn’t get a gold medal on my first try.
This extends to the arcade mode as well: easy and medium are quite easy, and while hard lives up to its name, there’s really nothing in between. A smoother difficulty curve would have made this game a lot better. So would a lower price, as DynoGems covers basically the same ground of arcade-style, colored-object matching for a much cheaper price (and without the disturbing fish explosions).