Posted by Martin Watts
A fish out of water
The core premise of Evofish is based ever so loosely on the fundamentals of nature and evolutionary science. As a fish in the ocean, you must snack on fish smaller than you are while also avoiding larger predators looking to eat you. Doing so successfully will enable you to grow in size and “evolve” into a species that’s one notch further up the food chain, thus making you less likely to end up as dinner. If you’ve ever played Osmos or the Cell Stage in Spore, then you’ll more or less already be familiar with what this game has to offer.
A survival of the fittest theme sounds like something that should provide an exciting, somewhat daunting experience, in which you’re constantly on the edge of your seat as you’re trying to escape big, nasty predators. However, Evofish amounts to little more than a mindless romp around a tiny section of the sea which is neither challenging nor fun. The action takes places from a 2D top-down perspective and the playable area only extends as far as the edges of the screen.
In single-player, Evofish is woefully simplistic, and that’s partly down to the fact that enemy fish don’t interact with each other; the smaller fish wait to be munched down by you, while the larger fish are only focused on hunting you. In other words, it’s simply a case of dodging one while going after another. A way to have added more depth (as per the far superior Osmos) would have been to make it every fish for itself, with each one also attempting to evolve and reach the same goal as you. This way, you’d need to actually make some tactical decisions when choosing which fish to go after, rather than just swimming mindlessly around the screen.
In a bid to make things more interesting, the game features a number of power-ups to help your fish in its quest for survival. There are defensive, offensive and status-improving powers to choose from, although there's never really a time when using one over the other is more advantageous. In addition to this, the flow of the gameplay is below par; every time you evolve, the game stops everything to inform you. It unnecessarily slows everything down, and simply making the fish grow in size would have sufficed.
Things are bit more varied when it comes to the multiplayer mode, in which there are three different options. In 1 vs 4, the GamePad player must evolve as quickly as they can, while avoiding four slightly larger fish. Each time it evolves, there is a short period during which it can eat the other players; doing so adds more time to the clock, which in this mode is essentially the GamePad player's health bar. The other players automatically evolve over time, and therefore don't have to rely on eating other fish, which means that they must make the most of the time they have when they have an advantage over the GamePad player. In this mode, things are slightly more strategic and challenging, as the other players can camp over schools of edible fish.
Last Fish Standing removes the evolution element and surviving the longest depends on how many fish you eat. Power-ups occasionally appear – resulting in some mad dash situations – but otherwise it's a bit of a lacklustre affair because you can't attack each other. The final mode, God of Swarm, is very much the opposite of 1 vs 4; the GamePad player is given two fish to control via the touch screen and must hunt the others. However, the GamePad controls aren't very responsive, and this is possibly a deliberate design decision, otherwise it would have been too easy to get the other players in the open, obstacle-free playing field.
Despite taking place in the depths of the ocean, Evofish is a remarkably shallow experience. While the game isn't meant to be especially fleshed-out or complex in its design, what’s on offer here is just too basic. The single-player mode lacks challenge, and what you do in it feels more like a chore than a game. Things are little better when it comes to multiplayer, with the asynchronous 1 vs 4 mode proving slightly more entertaining, although it really won’t hold your attention for very long due to the limited nature of the gameplay. If you’re really eager for a new multiplayer experience on Wii U, then Evofish is at least inexpensive enough to warrant a download out of curiosity. However, Evofish just doesn't have enough to it to make you want to dive back into it over and over again.