Hey there! Do you want to play some WiiWare game called Planet Fish? Didn't think so. Well then, do you want to play a highly original and puzzle-based spin on the fishing genre that's big on fun and creative problem solving? Ah, well then you do want to play Planet Fish, a game that is able to transcend its unappealing title and typical genre trappings to deliver a surprisingly creative and relaxing experience.
There are a more than a few fishing games on Nintendo's WiiWare service, but few, if any of them can claim to be any more fun or playable than the minigame that was included in Wii Play, which was released over four years ago. Planet Fish bucks the trend, partly because it realizes that gamers are no longer wowed by the novelty of swinging the Wii Remote like a fishing rod, and partly because it does away with the fishing rod entirely.
Well Planet Fish is, in fact, a fishing game, but only in the sense that you'll be...well, catching fish. You won't see any boats, rods or slowly-decaying old men in this one. Instead, your tools will be a mini-sub, projectile bubbles and a tractor beam.
So how does this game play? Quite well, actually. Your mini-sub floats along the surface of the water as you view the game from a side-on 2D angle. The sub, which you control by using the vertical Wii Remote's motion controls, has a thin beam of light that is constantly moving left and right; your goal is to press A just when your light beam lines up with a fish below so you can launch a bubble at it. Once the fish is trapped in the bubble, you hold down the A button to reel the fish back in with your sub's tractor beam. It all sounds a bit unorthodox, but it's actually quite easy to grasp when you sit down and play it.
Things start out simple to help acclimate the player to the initially off-putting controls, but the game slowly builds up the difficulty as the control scheme sinks in, adding bubble-popping obstacles and maze-like reefs that necessitate careful timing and precise movement. You could probably get past the game's 30-or-so levels within a couple of hours, but completionists will enjoy replaying each level to get a perfect score or to catch all the tricky fish they may have missed the first time.
Whether you're ricocheting your bubbles off narrow passages to catch hard-to-reach fish or avoiding spiky puffers and chasms, Planet Fish is consistently entertaining throughout its relatively brief campaign; despite its eventual difficulty, though, the game also manages to be surprisingly relaxing due to its simple one-button control scheme, colorful visuals and lovely aquatic soundtrack.
Even more relaxing (or perhaps boring, depending on your tastes) is the customizable aquarium. Every fish and hidden object that you find in the game's main levels can be added or removed from your little fish tank on the main menu, though the fact that you can't interact with the critters in your aquarium makes it a somewhat pointless diversion.
Planet Fish's brevity and pick-up-and-play nature would probably suit it much better on a handheld, but as it stands the game is still a consistently fun and unique take on the innocuous fishing genre, and at 500 points, well worth a download for someone looking for something slightly outside the box.