Fish Out of Water is a nice change of pace for developer Halfbrick Games. Their most popular titles, Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride, start out leisurely enough, but soon turn into white-knuckle reflex tests that have you frantically swiping or tapping the screen to stay alive. In comparison, Fish Out of Water is like a vacation on a beach.
This is due in no small part to the excellent tropical atmosphere the game achieves by using minimal beach sounds and slowly changing weather conditions. The gameplay is equally laid back: a colorful group of fish laze about, and you lift one out of the water and fling it out to sea with an easy swipe. Generally, the farther you fling the fish, and the more times it skips across the water, the better.
Each fish has its own style that you learn by playing the game. The blue whale, Micro, likes to make a high arc through the air, so you’ll get more distance and more skips if you toss him high and far. Finlay the dolphin, however, gets better results when flung close to the surface of the water. Send him too high, and he’ll nosedive into the bottom of the sea, slowing his progress.
The point of all this flinging is to satisfy a panel of crab judges, who give you numerical scores after your third toss. Like the fish, each crab has its own likes and dislikes. One judge bases its assessment based almost purely on distance, while another is an enormous fan of skips. The others are slightly more nuanced, including one who loves everything and a curmudgeon who hates everything.
As you play, you can unlock a string of achievements, with one available at any given time. These ask you to do things like complete a throw without the fish going above a certain height, or to get a particular score from a single judge. Paying attention to these can help keep the game feeling fresh, because otherwise it’s all just tossing fish.
And that’s the main drawback of the game: there’s not much to it. After you toss a fish, the only additional input you have is a boost meter that gives you extra velocity. Boost goes fast, so playing the game feels largely like a hands-off experience. The game has a dynamic weather system that changes in real time, and you can join online leagues and craft power-ups, but mostly it’s about tossing fish.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. No one wants to play high intensity games all the time. Sometimes you crave action, while other times you want to kick back, enjoy the breeze, and listen to the sound of the surf lapping at the shore. That’s exactly what Fish Out of Water delivers.