Fish Tank Review
Posted by Philip J Reed
An unrequested fishin' surplus
We know what you're thinking: "yawn... another colour-matching puzzler." And you'd be forgiven for shrugging and moving on.
If you do that, however, you'll be missing out on a game that's quite good on its own, and a multiplayer experience that absolutely bursts with frantic fun.
Fish Tank is a game that's simple in concept and efficient in execution. It's a puzzle game that asks you to match differently-coloured fish into groups of four or more, then push a button to detonate those groups. It couldn't be easier to understand, but mastering it is another story.
The Wii Remote is held horizontally, and you control the fish BIT.TRIP: BEAT style by tilting the Remote toward and away from yourself. The fish fly onto the screen from the left, and you need to position them horizontally so that they land where you want them to go in the board on the right. At first, this is easy. You'll quickly realise, though, that the board fills up rather quickly, and the number and speed of the fish increase substantially as the game continues.
When you successfully group four or more fish of the same colour, an arrow appears on those fish: up, down, left or right. When you press that button, the group detonates, the spaces free up, and you get the points. This means you need to keep an eye on which arrow detonates which group, and you need to be quick about it as overloaded rows count as strikes against you, and too many of those strikes will end your game.
It's easy to get overwhelmed, but that's part of the fun. The game becomes rather chaotic very quickly, but it never becomes unfair. You may find yourself in unwinnable situations, but it's always due to poor placement or your own slow reactions to what was happening. Just as in the best puzzle games, you're really competing against yourself.
There are items in the game as well. These cruise along from left to right just like the fish, and they serve varying purposes, such as detonating fish, clearing rows, reorganizing the playing field and temporarily slowing down the game's speed. These items are optional, and that's good, as they can just as easily screw you up as help you.
Where the game really shines, however, is its multiplayer feature. Up to four players can join together to work cooperatively, and it's a great deal of fun. Each fish and item will scroll onto the screen encased in a shape that corresponds to one of the players. Every player works at the same time to organise these fish for the maximum score — or basic survival — and each player must press the same button at the same time to detonate any groups of fish.
As you might imagine, this leads to a lot of heated discussion, cries for help and amusingly sloppy attempts at communication. In short, it's a lot of fun, and you'll soon realize that the chaos of the game is actually one of its strongest features.
The multiplayer feature is so much fun, in fact, that the single player feels somewhat bare in comparison. While the game is still fun solo, it doesn't really compare, and without your friends around to distract you you're bound to notice more of the game's flaws, such as its sadly repetitive soundtrack and the fact that the red and purple fish look just a little too much alike.
There are two modes in the game, either of which can be played single or multiplayer. They are an endless puzzle mode, and a Challenge mode that sees you trying to achieve increasingly difficult goals in an effort to unlock the next level.
Medals and achievements are available for those who perform more impressively, and those do serve to increase the replay value of the game by quite a bit. Ultimately, though, the replay value of any puzzle game is down to how much fun it is to perform the same task over and over again. In the case of Fish Tank, it's all in the hands of your friends. If you have people to play with, this should deservingly make it into your rotation. If you prefer to go it alone, you may prefer to swim on, little fishy.
Fish Tank is a flawed game, but those flaws are easily outbalanced by its sheer addictive fun in a multiplayer setting. Solo gamers may not find as much to get excited about, but its frantic pace and smooth controls may well be enough for them on their own. We definitely think this game is best suited to those playing in a group setting. Anyone else may wish to drop their lure elsewhere.