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Review: Fish Tank

Posted by on December 1st, 2010 | 1 Comment | Tags:

One thing I like about Minis titles is that their XMB splash screens usually give a fun description of what the game is all about. Fish Tank’s reads, “…revolutionary “Match-3″ game that combines puzzle elements with reflex based segments!” If you’re not familiar with “Match-3″ type puzzle games, see Magical Drop F, Bust-A-Move, or the modern classic Critter Crunch. Now that you’ve become acquainted with Match-3 puzzling, let me introduce you to what is “revolutionary” about Fish Tank: You play from left to right. There are rows where once there were columns, and fish are swimming from the left side of the screen to get into the rows. It’s not much of an innovation, but Fish Tank does perform a couple of other tricks. Some are for the good, while many are for the bad.

Fish Tank is a Match-3 puzzle game, for sure. You control fish as they swim from the left side of the screen. These fish are of different types, which basically means different colors. Your objective is to place same-colored fish next to each other. Once you have 4 or more fish of the same color touching each other, that group gets assigned a face button (□,△,x,o). To pop the group and score some points, press the assigned face button. Since there are 4 face buttons, you can have up to 4 different groups ready to pop at any one time. Just like in your favorite Match-3 games, the bigger the group, the more points you receive. Popping groups in rapid succession leads to bonuses, as well. There are two ways to lose. First, you can run out of time. There’s a timer up top that steadily decreases as you play. It’s refilled according to how many fish you’re popping. The second lose condition is if you “miss” too many fish. A “miss” occurs when you direct a fish into a full row. The fish makes it into the leftmost spot, but the poor bugger in the rightmost spot gets discarded.

Fish Tank has a limited number of interesting modes. If you select Play, you’ll be able to choose your difficulty (Easy, Medium, Difficult), and play until you meet one of the lose conditions. Unless you play on Hard, this mode doesn’t hold much appeal. I played Medium until my score was 999/999. Yes, I reached the maximum score in this puzzle game. Once you get to 999, the game stops registering your score. So, my “personal record” is 999. Good luck getting 1,000. Hard mode introduces less rows but more fish and is somewhat difficult, but the power-ups ease the pain quite a bit. Power-ups will float across the screen and can be activated by pressing the L trigger. The power-ups’ affects include filling the time meter, slowing the speed at which the fish swim in, clearing rows and columns, and increasing the maximum number of missed fish allowed.

I did spend a few hours playing this game, mostly in its Challenge mode. There are 24 challenges to be completed, and each one asks of you the same thing: Achieve “_” score. Save for the last 8 challenges, the background image and music loop don’t change. That means that between the menus and every type of play mode, there are about 3 40-second music loops. One of them is admittedly catchy, but the others are forgettable. There isn’t much more to the challenge mode. The final challenges are tough because the fish move quickly and you have a small number of misses, but the other 20 or so are fairly easy.

Overall, I can’t really recommend Fish Tank unless you have absolutely no other puzzle game to play. It tried a couple of different things and didn’t quite succeed. The 90-degree turn doesn’t do much for the genre, really. You have the ability to choose when your groups pop, which is cool, I guess. One thing that I couldn’t decide whether or not I hated is the fact that the fish are free-swimming, so to speak. There are rows that you’re required to put them in, but the fish don’t snap to the rows. When you press down, for example, it doesn’t move the fish to the next row down, it just slightly moves the fish lower on the screen. This means that until you get a hang of this control method, you’ll likely be placing fish in the wrong rows every once in a while. I prefer a more precise, stilted movement in my puzzle games. Tetris, Lumines, and, again, Critter Crunch haven’t swayed from this formula; I don’t think Fish Tank is the game to successfully do so.

For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Portable version of the game.

General Info

    Besides for the literal twist on match-3 puzzling, there's not much there

  • Eric G

    Critter Crunch isn’t exactly a match-3 puzzler, but it does share a few things in common with the game type.