The game isn't called Ordinary Fishing, after all. It isn't called By-The-Books Fishing, either. No, it's called Ridiculous Fishing. So it stands to reason that if you download this game, you will be expecting to do some fishing, and for it to be ridiculous. Good news: That's exactly what you'll get.
Ridiculous Fishing: A Tale of Redemption, which launches today for iOS devices, is a long-in-development collaboration between indie all-stars Vlambeer (Super Crate Box) and Spelltower developer Zach Gage. Ridiculous Fishing is weird and wonderful, a joy to play, and regularly hilarious.
It is, more or less, an iteration on Vlambeer's browser game Radical Fishing, but significantly fleshed out and optimized for smartphone controls.
It lives on its three-part-structure. You play as Billy, a fisherman… on a quest for redemption. First, you drop your line into the ocean and tilt your phone to sneak it around as many fish as possible: The goal here is to dodge the fish. Then, once you reach the end of your line or a fish snags your hook, you reel the line back up, and the game flips: The goal here is to catch the fish.
Finally comes the coup de grace: Upon hitting the surface, every fish on your hook is flung into the air, and you whip out a gun and start shooting: The goal here is to blow the fish away.
It's in the careful balancing of these three components that Ridiculous Fishing becomes such a joy to play. It's the sort of pure tension-and-release that the best mobile games strive for, and it makes for a gameplay loop that's as enjoyable as it is compulsive. Each time through takes under a minute, but each time you'll run a mini emotional gamut: The caution and focus required during the descent immediately flips to giddy anticipation as you begin the return trip, and it all culminates in an orgy of finger-tapping and laughter as you blast fish out of the air.
Far more so than the average iOS game, Ridiculous Fishing feels like it was made with great care. Tilting the phone to control the game's fishing hook is snappy and responsive. Snagging fish on the way back up feels precise. Blasting fish out of the air feels really good.
The artwork, by Greg Wohlwend, is a strange and winning mix of pixelated retro-style and regular ol' abstract squares, and each new underwater setting is loaded with all manner of goofy, colorful fish. The game's soundtrack, by Eirik Suhrke, is a kick, and perfectly conjures the different energies of the game's three phases.
Ridiculous Fishing also features some great writing, believe it or not, through which it manages to convey a warped, redneck/literary world. Billy's wooden iPhone-like-device contains all manner of information about the various fish he's catching (some of it is actually quite useful), as well as an often-hilarious Twitter-like app called "Byrdr" where the inhabitants of his world chat about fishing and sound off on whatever gear Billy picked up from the store.
Which brings us to the last, possibly most interesting aspect of Ridiculous Fishing—the in-game store. Here, you can go to buy upgrades for your fishing-line, lure, and gun. It's precisely the sort of place where, in almost any other iOS game, you'd expect to be shaken down for a few micro-transactions, but Ridiculous Fishing refuses to do so. It's odd to see this game and the similar Little Inferno as exceptions the microtransaction rule. It's enough to make me feel like an old codger, telling kids about how in my day, all games were like this.
The change here is a welcome one: To buy things in the store, you have only to play the game. (What a concept!) Every time you cast your line, even if you screw up and only snag a few fish, you'll make some money, and be that much closer to buying that lure-chainsaw or shotgun you had your eye on. But when it comes down to it, the rewards and prizes serve mainly to shake things up as you progress. The game itself is a pleasure to play from the outset.
The spectre of another game looms over the launch of Ridiculous Fishing: Gamenauts' Ninja Fishing, which flagrantly cloned Radical Fishing and beat Vlambeer to iOS, where it found success. It would be easy to mistakenly think that Ninja Fishing came first—see one of the game's developers correcting one of our commenters, who mentioned the similarity but got it backwards. There's a fair amount of satisfaction in Ridiculous Fishing's obvious superiority, and it's hard not to root for the game to bury its imitator and in so doing demonstrate that this time, craft and care won out over crass cloning.
At any rate: Ridiculous Fishing lives up to its name and then some. Come for the fishing, stay for the uzis.