Developer: Halfbrick
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

FishOutOfWater-02Fish Out of Water is Halfbrick’s long-awaited next game; it’s hard to believe that their last mega-release, Jetpack Joyride is over a year and a half old at this point. It’s very playable, but may not be something with a lot of longevity.

The goal is to launch three different fish across water, trying to maximize the distance they go along with the number of times they skip across the water, to try and impress the five different crab judges who score on various criteria. Most fish should be launched at a low enough angle that they go far, but won’t just fall in to the water. Some fish are wildly different – for example, Finlay the dolphin (yes, the game knows dolphins aren’t actually fish) can jump and dive out of the water, with each dive counting as a skip. However, he shouldn’t touch the bottom of the water, because that will slow him down immensely. The brothers split into multiple fish, so if used properly, they can rack up massive numbers of skips.

FishOutOfWater-12The game also has hourly weather effects that change the elements in play. Waves make it easier to skip, and jellyfish can be bounced off of in order to to get greater heights and further differences, but they can hurt Finlay. Thus, the challenge of the game comes from mastering how each fish works, and using the right ones in the right situation in order to get a high score. Developing a well-balanced strategy is key.

I’m curious to see how well Fish Out of Water monetizes as at launch; the game’s additional crystals, used for powerups and the like, are tucked well away to the point where they’re almost invisible. It’s certainly possible to play the game without them and to get good scores (my top is 9.4 so far) but they do confer some advantages like extra skips, or making the ornery crab judge always give out a 10, for example. Still, it seems like actually playing the game and mastering its mechanics is what is truly necessary.

However, it’s that scoring system that I think keeps the game from ever being as addictive or truly satisfying as Jetpack Joyride could be: with the 10.0 judges’ score being the max, there’s always that ceiling to how well players can do. The daily league play where a player’s highest score contributes to their league’s total might help as a long-term encouragement. Let’s join league 148Apps and keep the TouchArcade league from inevitably dominating, perhaps?

While Fish Out of Water has the typical kind of Halfbrick fun and playability that the company is known for, particularly as flicking fish through the sky and across the water doesn’t stop being fun, the lack of a truly compelling high score quest puts a damper on how long that fun will last.

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