Last week, we analyzed each of the five virtual aquarium games we’ve previously covered — Top Fish, FishVille, Happy Aquarium, Fish World, and My Fishbowl. But there’s another one, that’s been out for some time. From Clipwire Games, it’s called Fish Life and it has a significant 1.4 million monthly active users.
Players start out just like any other fish game, buying fish, feeding them, selling them at adulthood, and decorating their virtual tank. Frankly, at first glance, there isn’t too much that is different, with many elements (especially the interface) feeling quite similar to Fish World — although we’re not sure who launched first. So just what is so special?
Perhaps one of the most curious aspects to Fish Life is it’s “Mission” system. This is how the player actually learns to play the game and progress beyond it. The game will actually ask you to “Buy a Fish” or “Clean Your Tank.” Doing so will complete the mission and earn you some extra cash and experience towards a new level. Some competing games have this feature, but they don’t make it such a prominent part of the interface.
As with other virtual aquariums, higher levels mean better items and fish…. Right…? Surprisingly, no, levels do nothing for the player directly. Luckily, the developers have stated that more benefits will be added, but as it stands higher levels only allow greater access to more gifts that can be sent. Frankly, this isn’t that big of a deal as the better fish and items still cost a lot of money, and it is actually kind of nice to have the option of buying nicer stuff early on (even if it isn’t a fiscally viable one).
Another nice element is that the fish never actually die. If there is one complaint to be had about some of the other games, it is that if you are not around to feed your fish, you‘ll be making a few flushes when you get back. Not all the games have an automatic fish feeder like Happy Aquarium does.
Furthermore, in Fish Life, the fish look fantastic, and really do feel like real fish (except the whole… on the computer thing). Sadly, this leads to one of a few big complaints. Yes, the visuals are fantastic, but only independently. While the number of artists on this project isn’t known to us at the moment, it does look like there is some need for more style direction. The fish are fairly detailed with smooth gradients, a shimmering sort of look, and very brilliant colors. However, the decorations are very flat looking, almost cel-shaded, and don’t really fit. This is made worse by the heavy shadows and highlights mixed and blurred together in the background to give it an almost water-color feel. Each are good in their own right, but none look like they belong together.
One of the other issues is that the overall inventory of purchasable items felt significantly smaller than other virtual aquarium games. This is mitigated slightly by more ways to earn currency, an amusing Fly Ribbon-style mini-game, and, a personal favorite, a fortune telling fish. However, the point of these types of games is creativity, and a lack of options limits Fish Life, compared to some of other competing titles. Furthermore, any perks are quickly forgotten by the constant intrusion of pop ups reminding players to bookmark and add friends (though the latter only seems to be when you first log on, thankfully). If the player likes the game, they will bookmark it. Brute forcing it with constant reminders is only going to irritate them — although this is something that many other games do, as well.
Overall, Fish Life is a decent virtual aquarium title. It has its creative perks but also a handful of shortcomings. All the same, however, these deficiencies are far from the end of the world and are mostly simple fixes. We expect the game to continue improving, and to be a significant competitor to other fishing titles.