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Planet Fish Review on Wii

I don’t normally review video games, but this one was worth doing :)

My sister works at a video game company in Montreal called Ludia.  They usually do games based on well-known brands like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Family Feud and The Price Is Right.  I played a couple of these games on the Wii, but I’m not a fan of TV shows, so these games don’t appeal to me much.

For some time, my sister was working on a new game called Planet Fish.  From my understanding, this is a first attempt from the company into creating a game not based on a successful American show.  With this game, they are actually letting their imagination run wild.  For that, the game already starts with some bonus points on my review!

So when my sister told me the game was out on WiiWare, I bought the game for 500 points ($5) in the store.  I thought the pricing would be around $10 for the casual game, so I was surprised of this low price.

In Planet Fish, you control a submarine (from left to right, you can’t go up or down) and you shoot an air bubble that allows you to grab fishes swimming below you.  What makes this tricky is that you can’t control the shooting direction as it just swings around.  You have to shoot in a timely manner to make sure you will reach a fish and not one of the many spikes that can explode your air bubble.  Once your bubble grabs a fish, it will automatically pull it toward your sub and you can accelerate the process by pressing the A button.

For a casual game, it’s as simple as it gets: left, right, A button.  However, the first few minutes, I had a hard time moving my submarine.  Maybe I was not holding my wiimote correctly, but the moving of the ship was not super-precise.  As I played more, things improved a lot and I’m almost totally satisfied with the control.

The game has 6 different "worlds", each having 5 levels.  To unlock the next level, you need to catch a minimum number of fishes.  Once you get used to the control, you can generally complete most level on the first try, although things get way hard on a few levels (hardest: world 5, level 5).

As a developer myself, I can appreciate when something is done well, being a website, an application or a game.  I must say that the physic in Planet Fish is really well done and the bubble bounces on things like you would expect (but also get you freaked out in some levels – world 5, level 5).  Collision detection seemed accurate all the time.

Of course, the levels’ graphics are beautiful (congrats sister!).  The 6 worlds look fresh and shiny, and it feels like you are underwater in a clean ocean.  The programmers added some cool sun-ray effect on these water grounds.  All that’s missing is some bubbles to feel like those fishes are actually alive!  But still, on my 52 inches TV, this game looks great.

Although, I have a few issues with some graphical elements of the game.  First, the submarine looks like it’s done with a 3 color palettes.  It makes the game look like it’s a kid’s game, although it’s clearly not.  I would have liked a better looking sub.  The menus of the game also don’t give the game justice.  They look like they were added in a rush without much polish.  It could have upped the game’s overall feeling by making sure the menus and the submarine have the same level of high quality as the game’s levels graphics.

The music is great and is a perfect fit for this game.  One thing is that it has only 3 songs for the 6 worlds, which means the same music twice.  I would have gladly had paid an extra $5 to get 3 additional songs so that I don’t abuse listening to these tunes.  Next game Ludia, you should give music an equivalent respect as graphic: 6 worlds, 6 different graphic styles, 6 different songs.

The level design is very good.  A few levels are very hard and level 5-5 will guarantee you some additional white hairs.  It’s the only level that you discover that your bubble can actually explode by itself without touching any spike.  You then understand that you have time to complete the level and that stresses you some more.  I could also recognize a level design pretty similar to Peggle in the game, which made me say "wtf", but is a fun addition.

I like the aquarium concept, where the title screen shows fishes swimming around, making my TV a pretty nice attraction.  One thing I would have preferred for that to be truly usable: to fade out the music and replace it with some bubble sound effects.  You know, just like a real aquarium.

I played Planet Fish for a few hours before completing all levels.  I would have loved a "Man, you’re hot, you just completed all levels!", but just plain nothing.  But at least, I still have many fishes to unlock, so the replay value is there.

Overall, this is a great casual game at a great price ($5).  It’s fun to play with variable difficulty that make us want to play more and finish every levels.  I want to congratulate the development team (special congrats to my sister) for coming up with this game that’s truly unique.  Two thumbs up!

Rating: 8/10