Another game, another game title that almost acts like the instruction manual. The Fish Dies in the End, or simply ‘FishDies’ as the app seems to be named on my iPod, is a side-scrolling avoid-‘em-up (a new game genre name I am trying to coin, opinions in the comments box thanks) from developer Gutenberg Neto. I’m still certain a less clunky name could have been chosen for the final product, because as amusing as it is to read or say aloud, once or twice anyway, when you have to write in a dozen times for a review, it becomes a little draining. That and my already seam-bursting word count isn’t going to fix itself. So FishDies it is, henceforth.
FishDies is actually not too dissimilar to another recent mobile game I’ve reviewed elsewhere: Blue Giant (if you haven’t checked out the game, I recommend you give it a go). Blue Giant is a side-scrolling planet and asteroid shoot-‘em-up set in space, so apart from the lack of shooting astral bodies and the change of location, FishDies might as well be the little step-sister of its planetary brother. And with Blue Giant having had some repeat plays since finishing the review, this game had some work to do to usurp its predecessor-of-sorts.
You play a little orange fish who; inevitably, will die in the end. As is life and all that. Until such a time, it is your mission to guide him through obstacle-filled waters, avoiding danger and collecting power-ups until he can swim no more. Controlling your unnamed fish (although, for some reason, I thought he looked like a ‘Chad’, and so he was named) is as easy as destroying your brother’s sand castle. Touch the screen for Chad to swim higher, release your touch for him to swim lower. There is one slight issue of one’s thumb generally getting in the way of oncoming traffic, but that isn’t too jarring. Okay so the game is a little lacking in the immersion side of things, a little ironically if you think about it, but what it lacks in immersion it makes up for with charm. For a short while anyway.
Each colourful critter that flies towards you, be it Sammie Starfish, or Manfred Manta Ray, or poor confused Pete the Puffa Fish, who might also be an Urchin, but has clear personality dysfunctions, has a colourful and animated little face, full of menace and angst towards little Chad. Well, by animated I mean each enemy has about two or three frames of animation, but with them flying by so quickly I guess we don’t need a fully functioning Cthulhu jibbering past us at any given moment. You’ll manoeuvre Chad around these critters, as well as scenery, such as coral and, erm, different coloured coral. My main issue is that the background rarely changes, apart from during the shark attack sections on the medium and hard settings. It would have been nice to have a different locale for each difficulty. Maybe even see a pirate ship wreckage pass by, or a Mermaid swim around in the background for a moment? But no, it’s the same ten metres of ocean repeated ad nauseum.
And while the power-ups are at least varied, they don’t really do enough to bring a bit of excitement to the game. You can gain health back by swimming into a floating heart, and extra points by collecting any pearls that float by. Strangely, though, the pearls have been designed to look almost exactly like the bubbles in the background, so quite often they fly past without me noticing. Another power up is a crash helmet, bizarrely, to allow Chad to take a hit without losing one of his three precious lives. The issue is, with a game that is meant to be long and take a while to get the highest scores, there is just no incentive whatsoever to continue past the point of it being fun anymore. There’s just too little replayability to the game, and with the highest scores around coming from people who’ve played the levels for some twenty minutes or so, you’re going to need to have something else going on that’s mildly entertaining, while you sit there and tap, or not tap, the screen to make Chad flounder about.
There is a little more skill required for the harder settings, with shark attacks being thrown in for good measure, but it is still relatively easy to clear these. More often than not I lose points because I drift too close to a piece of scenery while trying to avoid the oncoming chum. The whole game is just a bit safe, and doesn’t really push the envelope at any point. I’d have liked to have seen Chad collect something he could use as a weapon, say bubbles for example, and then every so often a boss creature would appear (I’m not above suggesting Cthulhu again), and poor Chad would have to blow his way out of trouble with an onslaught of bubbles, while still fending off attacks from whatever baddie is blocking the way. These needn’t happen very often, but would break up the monotony, and there’s no need to have more than, say, six different bosses, which could also increase with difficulty as the level goes.
So if a sequel is ever on the cards, likely to be titled ‘The Fish Still Dies in the End’ I guess, I would welcome some additions to the current game to liven it up a bit, and push the boundaries of what the platform is capable of. Give me another difficulty setting, with different graphical backgrounds, some new obstacles for a bit of variance, some underwater boss monsters, and an improved sound track (enjoy listening to the sounds of bubbles repeatedly) and you’d have a game I would willingly put a bit more time into. But with so many other games around that have a lot more to them, some of which you can get for free in fact, FishDies will struggle to get any repeat plays from myself personally.
MLG Rating: 5/10
Platform: iOS Release Date: 13/04/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of The Fish Dies in the End for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an iPhone. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.