There's a curious debate about resolution and framerate currently detonating across communities of "serious" gamers right now, one that this reviewer finds frankly ridiculous. There's no denying the higher aesthetic quality of games running at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second — they look amazing — but there's still plenty of evidence that proves horsepower alone can't make a game fun. After all, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, frequently cited as one of the most masterfully designed and influential games of all time, runs at a humble 20 fps in standard definition — and there are countless other examples of titles that remain perfectly playable despite their lesser performance specifications.
All that being said, framerate isn't an entirely unimportant factor in the enjoyment one can get from a game. For example, just try to squeeze a drop of fun out of Plenty of Fishies — a clunky, haphazard effort that manages to shamelessly rip off a 10-year-old game while also failing to run half as well as its inspiration. Make no mistake, this game performs unacceptably poorly, in ways that could (and should) have been fixed before any sort of release took place. Nintendo's trouble with shovelware has never been more obvious, but at least many of the games we've looked at in previous reviews have run acceptably enough despite their low quality; this disasterpiece sets a scary precedent by being among the first to make us seriously consider the possibility that Nintendo might not even look at the games - certainly not in terms of raw performance - that it's passing for publication on its digital storefront.
Before you even come face to face with the game's fatal flaw, it's apparent that Plenty of Fishies makes little effort to stand above the crowd. Like some other questionable titles on the platform, it makes the damning mistake of plundering the chests of far richer and more storied games to reproduce a skeletal version of the original concept. This leads to a lot of mediocrity even when the "inspiration" is meaty, so you can imagine what kind of results come from mimicking 2004's food chain arcade game Feeding Frenzy and, reproduced here for the fourth time so far on Wii U, last year's mobile sensation Flappy Bird. There are three modes in the game, two of which serve as this game's de facto versions of the aforementioned titles and one of which (to our knowledge) is original.
As in Feeding Frenzy, Plenty of Fishies' Adventure mode has you swimming about as not-Marlin-from-Finding Nemo as you attempt to work your way up the food chain. Eat a load of smaller fish and your clownfish will grow steadily bigger, thus being able to take on bigger prey. And you will have to eat a ton — this mode's biggest error is unquestionably the number of fish it requires for your fish to grow. Arcade-style games like this are much better served to quick bursts of pick-up-and-play action, but you'll be making the same loopy motions around the ocean for what seems like an eternity; you'll have devoured hundreds of smaller prey before your fish is big enough to eat the barracuda that triggers the end of the first level. Beyond that, there's little purpose to any of this other than to directly reproduce the look and feel of the PopCap Games original — something this game fails to achieve.
The other two modes fare no better than Adventure. The cringe-inducing Flippy Fish mode effectively replicates the original Flappy Bird, replacing its pipes with jellyfish and hooks. Egg Survivor is just that — an endurance campaign in pursuit of the high score — but it suffers from atrociously unfair enemy AI that can have your poor little eggs blue-plate specialed in a matter of seconds. All of these modes come with multiplayer variations, but they're about as bare-bones and tedious as you might expect considering the source material.
Even if Plenty of Fishies manages to conjure up an accurate duplication of the original Feeding Frenzy, it effectively neuters its appeal (and any the other modes might have had) with its crippling performance issues. There wasn't a minute that went by when this game didn't stutter like Christopher Walken reading a Saturday Night Live cue card — it chugs laboriously through every frame of animation in every mode, on every screen, right from the first second you see the game begin to load. Even the splash screen showing the developer's name can't get through its five second animation without problems, a sure sign of things to come.
As you might have guessed, these issues — of which the cause is absolutely mystifying, considering the game's shoddy presentation and tame use of graphics — make it well-nigh impossible to play Plenty of Fishies even if you wanted to. Not that you'd want to.
A patch is reportedly on the way in early 2015, we should note, but as we reviewed this at launch, when consumers are spending money on the product, we find this performance unacceptable.
Plenty of Fishies is an aggressively bad game. Say what you will about its plagiarized ideas and bland presentation — those are small potatoes compared to the questions raised by its incessant performance hiccups. Mindless ripoffs are one thing, but mindless ripoffs that barely work — for a launch price of $4.99 — are another thing entirely. You have been warned.