The idea of catching crabs probably wouldn’t excite you much, unless you’re an addict of the Discovery Channel’s huge hit series Deadliest Catch. In case you’re unfamiliar with the reality show, it follows fishing boats and crews that are hunting for crabs in the most dangerous times of the year.
The skill and technique these crews employ to capture tons of crabs are unreal, and the unpredictable ebb and flow of the ocean makes even the simplest task complicated. Based on the sustained success of the show, we now have a game attempting to bring the same excitement to millions of iOS users on the iPhone and iPod Touch. But is it any good?
I see you have the machine that goes ping.
From the get-go, Deadliest Catch impressed with its slick production values. The menus and transitions between screens are smooth and it gives a great first impression. We also appreciate the comprehensive tutorial that walks you through the ins and outs of playing this unique game.
Framed in the context of fishing seasons, your job is to purchase a boat, put together a crew, and buy the necessary bait needed to catch crabs. You’re given an initial stack of cash, and the mandate you and your crew have is to hit a quota of collected crabs before a specified amount of days are up.
Completing seasons open up new ones that will eventually require you to upgrade all aspects of your operation to meet the challenges of your more demanding quotas. It’s simple enough to understand, and the game does a great job of hand-holding to ensure you don’t get lost.
Don’t rock the boat.
Catching crabs and meeting your quotas require an interesting mix of gameplay mechanics. Getting to the areas where there are crabs requires traversal on an overworld, similar to an RPG. When you get to a spot that has crabs in the area, indicated by a crab icon, you dive down into a closer view of the waters.
When you draw a line on the map, pots (i.e. crab traps) will be placed in the ocean. You can wait for pots to catch crabs, or you can swap back the overworld to mine other spots as well. Once you pull the pots, a minigame comes up requiring you to sort the valuable crabs vs. the junk. Every time you pull your pots out, you have to do this minigame, and it gets old fast.
Other minigames are sprinkled throughout to add variety. Whether it’s keeping your boat steady in stormy seas or rescuing a stranded guy floating in the ocean, we liked the variety in the controls using the accelerometer and the touch gestures.
Quick, get these to a Red Lobster!
After a while, getting into the zone with catching crabs comes easily, but all the gameplay is a bit undermined by the inconsistent touch controls. The game is fun, but Deadliest Catch seems to be very temperamental about registering taps accurately. Many of the minigames require perfect timing to achieve fast times and maximum points, and sometimes it’s out of your control. These issues appear to be ones that can easily be patchable, and we’ll keep our eyes out for it.
If you like the show, you’ll also find much to like in Deadliest Catch on the iPhone. The essence of the show is captured well through the use of real characters and vessels from the show. The presentation looks great, and the gameplay is solid, notwithstanding the inconsistent tap controls. We think the fan service here is sincere.