Have you ever signed up for a cheap vacation, only to find the room is half the size you expected and the "beach-front" view is actually a back alley and a pile of dirt? That's pretty much what Fin, the pint-sized hero of Mighty Fin [$0.99], gets when he decides to sign up for Shady Sal's suspiciously cheap Round the World Tour. Instead of dirty sheets, he's dealing with sharks and frigid waters in a vacation he'll be lucky to survive.
Guiding Fin through the deadly waters involves the same sort of one-touch gameplay that made Tiny Wings [$0.99] such a winner. You can press down to make Fin dive, and release to make him jump. He swims toward obstacles full-speed ahead while you react to keep him safe. Along with spikes, jellyfish and other deadly foes, each level is filled with points bubbles. These boost your score and telegraph the best way around upcoming obstacles. Since each level is randomly generated when you play it, this extra assistance is handy.
Mighty Fin has eight levels, with regular and endless modes for each. That doesn't sound like much, but the levels are long and some are quite challenging. Each level also has three hats to earn - one found within the level, and two for getting gold-ranked scores on regular and endless. Game Center leaderboards add a little more replayability.
The levels that Fin visits on his vacation are mostly pretty bleak - Backwater Bay, Teacup Tempest and Shipwreck Strait are as grey and unwelcoming as they sound. So it's a good thing the rest of Mighty Fin has charm to spare. The art is top-notch, especially for Fin himself. He's a goofy, bug-eyed little fish, but he looks so joyous when he leaps out of the water that I just had to root for the little guy. The hats are a nice touch too—it's a little more fun to play with a fish in a top hat or a lady's bouffant. You'll also want to catch the witty quips scattered throughout the game.
Mighty Fin's charm helps to smooth out some of its struggles. The music really needs more variety, for one thing. Also, If you're at all skilled with the game, the first couple levels won't make a great first impression - the levels are a bit too long and a bit too easy to start. The challenge ramps up, but avoid the early endless levels if you're finding the game too easy. I had to kill Fin off intentionally a couple times after I cleared a few million points. The later levels fare much better.
If you're not motivated by the high score chase, the game's done once you unlock all the hats. I'd love to see achievements and maybe a (cheerier) future level pack to pad the game out. An endless mode that actually gets harder and faster as you progress would be a nice addition, too.
It's certainly no complaint that I'd like to see Fin safely through another undersea vacation. In the end, I was entertained and thoroughly challenged by Mighty Fin. Reactions are mixed in the forums, but I think this is a winner for Launching Pad Games.
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