Fishdom (iOS) review
Fishdom is a new iPhone release from Playrix. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with a single in-app purchase to unlock the game’s full features. The game has been available in several incarnations on iPad for a while now, but this is its first outing on the iPhone. It’s currently highlighted in the New & Noteworthy section of the App Store’s Games section.
Fishdom initially appears to be a free-to-play aquarium sim, of which there are already several modestly successful — if rather dull — examples on iOS. However, the reality is actually somewhat different — while the player’s progress through the game is largely determined by how attractive and full of fish their aquarium is, the main bulk of gameplay consists of a match-3 puzzler in the Bejeweled mold.
In the aquarium, players are able to purchase three types of item using in-game currency: fish, “beauty” items to make the tank look more attractive, and “comfort” items to make the tank more pleasant for the fish. The more items they purchase, the higher their three fish, beauty and comfort meters rise, and filling all the meters awards them with one of three trophies — bronze, silver or gold. If the player runs out of money, they do not have the option to acquire more via in-app purchase, however — instead they must take to the game’s puzzle mode to earn more.
Each puzzle mode level takes place on a different grid, and requires the player to destroy all the specially-colored tiles by making matches over them by swapping objects around. Depending on the color of the tile, it may require more than one match to be made atop it to destroy it. As usual for the genre, various powerups make an appearance when the player matches more than three objects at the same time, and these can be used to make destroying the tiles easier. Each level has an extremely generous time limit, and play returns to the aquarium rather than progressing to the next level when it is completed. Upon completing a level, the player receives money according to how many tiles they destroyed plus a bonus for the score they attained and how much time they had remaining. As the player progresses through the levels, new game features such as locked pieces come into play, requiring some strategic adjustments.
The free version of the game limits players’ progress, but the full game may be unlocked for a one-off in-app purchase that costs $2.99. Unlocking the full game provides access to three different fish tanks to decorate, a hefty number of replayable levels (which marketing blurb for the game variously describes as “130 levels” and, a little more inaccurately, as “an unlimited number of levels”) and a wider selection of fish and decorative items to purchase.
Fishdom is a good game, but it’s missing a few features to make it great. For starters, it’s lacking in true social play. There’s nothing to stop players from taking a screenshot of their aquarium and posting it to their favorite social networks, of course, and the game also features the facility to Like the game on Facebook, follow the developer on Twitter and send a link via email to friends, but there’s no facility to view friends’ aquariums, for example, and no means of comparing high scores. The game doesn’t even support Game Center, unlike many of Playrix’s other iOS titles, and thus ends up feeling like a somewhat solitary experience. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for players who are happy to play alone, but it seems like a curious omission given the type of game and Playrix’s previous experience. Perhaps it is something that will be added in a future update.
This aside, Fishdom is a good quality game with decent production values and solid gameplay — albeit a largely unimaginative one due to its adoption of the completely unoriginal match-3 mechanics for its core gameplay. App Store reviewers have been responding positively to it, though — apparently fans of the game on iPad have been waiting for an iPhone version for quite some time.
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A decent game, albeit one which could be improved with just a dash of social play.