Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the Classic Reload, the monthly feature where we have issues with jellyfish. Each month, we take a look at a golden oldie from the App Store’s past to see how it holds up in the here and now. It’s a chance to revisit old favorites, reflect on their place in the overall iOS library, or simply to take a deeper dive than our reviews typically allow. I try to pick a balanced plate of games from month to month, but if there’s something you really want to see, let me know in the comments below. You might not see your suggestion soon, but it will be added to the list for future consideration.
I’m continuing to pick my way through past TouchArcade Game of the Year winners in this feature. This time, we’re looking at the winner of our 2013 iPhone Game of the Year award, Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing: A Tale of Redemption ($2.99). It’s got quite the story both behind its release and after it, but setting aside cloning controversies and update debacles, it’s important to remember that there’s a really nifty game here that fits the platform like a glove.
While I like to sink my teeth into longer games as much as anyone around TouchArcade Towers, some of the platform’s most important contributions to gaming have been through cleverly designed arcade-style games like Ridiculous Fishing. Put together by a mobile Dream Team consisting of developer Zach Gage, artist Greg Wohlwend, musician Eirik Suhrke, and of course, Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman, Ridiculous Fishing scooped up a ridiculous amount of praise and awards when it released back in 2013.
The story of Ridiculous Fishing starts back in 2010 with the release of Vlambeer’s browser-based Radical Fishing. The game’s idea came to Nijman while he was watching a TV program about tuna fishing. He imagined a game that combined elements of catching big fish, slow-motion photography, and Duck Hunt. The original game closely resembles the eventual iOS remake in terms of mechanics, with the gameplay being composed of three consecutive mini-games. The idea was that putting in a good performance in each mini-game would give you a leg up on the next one in the sequence.
The first part has you casting your line into the water and letting your lure sink as deep as possible without snagging anything. The second it touches anything, you enter the second mini-game where the goal is to try to hook everything you can onto your lure as the line makes its way back up to the surface. Once it does, all of the objects you’ve snagged will be flung into the air, and you’ll need to shoot them down to earn your rewards. The money you earn from killing fish can be used to buy upgrades that will help you go deeper into the water and reach new species of fish, which in turn can be sold for even more money.
It was a good set-up for a Flash game, but it turned out to be a great one for a mobile game. Vlambeer decided to bring a souped-up version of the game to iOS as one of their first titles on the platform and got to work. Long-time TouchArcade readers probably remember what happened next. In 2011, a game heavily inspired by Radical Fishing was released by Gamenauts. Ninja Fishing was basically a repainted version of Vlambeer’s game, albeit with a Fruit Ninja-like slashing mechanic replacing the shooting mini-game. Vlambeer hadn’t even made their iOS version of Radical Fishing public yet, but the appearance of Ninja Fishing forced their hand. Unfortunately, the whole situation ended up seriously demoralizing the small developer, and Ridiculous Fishing was temporarily sidelined.
The following year, Vlambeer released Super Crate Box on iOS. The developer had decided to keep going with Ridiculous Fishing and had brought on Zach Gage and Greg Wohlwend to help get the game together. Things kicked into high gear in the second half of 2012, and after a great deal of effort on everyone’s part, Ridiculous Fishing was ready for an early 2013 release. The game was officially set for a release on March 13, 2013, and while there were some concerns that the game might get lost in the shuffle due to a couple of other releases, those fears proved to be unfounded. Ridiculous Fishing was a major hit, staying in the charts for a long time after its release. The game went on to win numerous awards, including Apple’s 2013 Design Award and their iPhone Game of the Year.
After the game’s release, Vlambeer put through a couple of decent-sized updates. One had some new content, while the other localized the game into a bunch of different languages. There were some rumblings about doing a bigger update with a whole new narrative arc and other added content, but those plans appear to have been dashed when Vlambeer largely abandoned the iOS platform after 2013. To an extent, it’s understandable. They’re a small team with a lot of projects on the go, and the fact that Ridiculous Fishing is a paid app with no IAP might make it hard to justify creating new content for it. Plus, it doesn’t really need it. The game is a good enough value as it is, and although I could see a sequel doing some interesting things, I don’t know that this game really needed more raw content. If that’s what you’re after, Ninja Fishing has done a lot of updates over the years.
I’m not so keen on Vlambeer’s penchant for promising updates and then not following through on them, though. It seems like a yearly occurrence that they promise to update both Ridiculous Fishing and Super Crate Box to bring them up to modern standards, and those dates they set always seem to sail by. The most recent mention was back in August, when they said they would update both games in “the next few months". Still no sign of that happening, though. It’s not such a big problem for Ridiculous Fishing, mind you. The game runs just fine on newer hardware, to the point that you’d never know it was a few years old. That they’ve let Super Crate Box go on as it has for so long is discouraging for the long-term prospects of both games, however. They’re a small team, incredibly busy, and updating their iOS games is evidently the lowest priority item on their to-do list.
Even with that fate hanging over the game’s head, I’d still absolutely recommend Ridiculous Fishing. It’s a simple game at its heart, but like any good arcade game, there’s a lot to master here. The main story on its own is likely to take you a little while to get through, as you need to learn how to read the patterns of each fishing area, upgrade your gear, and fill out your fishing log. Some fish are only out at specific times of the day, so even if you had a mind to, you won’t be able to sit down and do everything at once. Depending on the type of player you are, the close of the story will either be a satisfying end of your time with the game, or just the beginning.
Unlike other stages, the final area has no bottom, so you can keep on fishing to your heart’s delight. Leaderboards for the deepest depth and most money earned allow you to pit your skills against your friends, which is quite a blast. This is one area where an update would help a lot, however, as iOS 10 has greatly reduced what players can do with Game Center outside of apps. Unless you already have your friends added from before, you won’t be able to do much with this feature in Ridiculous Fishing. Competing on the general leaderboards is pointless since, like many iOS games, the top ranks are filled with cheaters.
I’m sorry, I know I’m harping on about the update thing, but I just love the design of this game and hate to see it falling by the wayside. The basic structure is excellent in that you’re constantly moving forward, stumbling upon a new mystery, or earning a new upgrade. I normally don’t like games where I need to tilt my device to control things, but the developers used tilt sensibly here and tuned the controls just right. I love the way the different styles of gameplay work together, too. It’s awfully clever that you start by trying to avoid everything in the first mini-game while the second has you doing just the opposite. Finishing it off with the satisfying shooting section, where you get to watch your catch explode into money as you tap away, is a brilliant chaser for any frustrations you might have encountered in the first two mini-games.
There’s more strategy to all of this than there initially appears to be, too. You learn pretty quickly that jellyfish are trouble, as killing them will take away some of your money. It’s inevitable that you’ll scoop some up as you go, though. Fortunately, if you let them fall harmlessly into the sea, you won’t lose any money, but that requires some careful shooting. There are some fish that will block your lure’s boost effect, so you can’t just fire that off willy-nilly even if you have fuel to do so. That limited fuel is another source of strategy. Where and when should you use it, and for how long? Finally, there are some fish that are almost more trouble than they’re worth. One spits out a seemingly never-ending stream of babies that can leave your shooting finger tired, while another will do the same thing but with money-penalizing jellyfish babies! If you snag that one and don’t shoot accurately, you may very well leave with less money than you came in with.
While the story mode is something of a short ride, it’s surprisingly strong. Make sure you get to the bottom of the third area, if nothing else. There’s something very interesting down there that you’ll surely want to pull out of the water. Beyond the enjoyable gameplay, Ridiculous Fishing also excels in its presentation. The art rides a fine line between being cartoony and having a fair bit of detail.
The music is brilliant, as it not only needs to sound good on the way down during the first mini-game, but also on the way up, where the music is reversed. I don’t know how composer Eirik Suhrke managed to pull that off, but he did. Of course, I’d be doing the game a disservice if I didn’t also mention its odd and humorous writing tone. Every fish and item has an amusing description, and the game has its own fake Twitter-like feed to check with some interesting, funny, and groan-worthy tidbits. You’ll also find the occasional hint in there, so keep your eyes peeled.
Ridiculous Fishing works as both a brief, high-quality experience, or a wonderful long-term score-chaser. Even though it hasn’t been updated over the last few years, it still works just fine, too. If you’ve somehow missed out on playing this game, I think it presents just as good a diversion as it ever did. Here and now, it’s easy to see why it caught the attention of so many critics and players. It’s meticulously designed, to such a point that its elements are balanced exceptionally well. That’s not something many games pull off, and I think it’s one of the biggest reasons why Ridiculous Fishing made such an impact.
That’s just my take on Ridiculous Fishing, though. What do you all think? Does it live up to the hype? Is it really that ridiculous to use a shotgun and a toaster to fish? What’s your favorite hat? I want to know, so please leave a comment below telling me about your experiences with the game. Also, a reminder that the January RPG Reload Play-Along is still on-going. Head on over to the thread and join in on this month’s game, Final Fantasy 1! It’s good, mostly-clean fun. As for me, I’ll be back next week with a developer interview. Probably. Thanks for reading.
Next Week’s Reload: A developer interview! Probably!