Reviewed: August 7, 2011
Released: July 11, 2011
App Store Price: $6.99
You know a mobile game is good when the entire time you are playing it you just keep muttering, “I wish I was playing this on the Xbox or PS3.” And yes; Glowfish is that good. I haven’t been this captivated by anything having to do with tropical fish or coral reefs since Finding Nemo. The only way MumboJumbo could make this game any better is to let me play it on my HDTV…and make it 3D while you’re at it.|
At least by having Glowfish on my iPad I can take this magical adventure anywhere I go and share this visionary game with anyone who cares to look over my shoulder. The premise is simple, the plot is disposable, and the gameplay goes from carefree Zen-like difficulty in the earlier levels to Prince of Persia, trap-dodging, killer-fish-combat hard in the later ones.
You play as Glowfish, who looks more like a blue bunny with droopy ears, and you must navigate 50 increasingly difficult levels loaded with spiky coral, fiendish traps, and deadly predators like jellyfish, anglerfish, and more to rescue your fish-napped girlfriend. You’ll also need to collect your friends that are either scattered about the levels or who will appear when you destroy some of the more common lesser enemies. Once collected, they will either follow you in single file or orbit around Glowfish as a protective shield; the more friends, the larger the shield and the bigger the enemy you can attack. Various fruit power-ups will also aid you in combat.
From time to time you will drop your friends off at their “home”, a conch shell with an umbrella, and this will checkpoint your progress through the level. Each of these requires a certain amount of friends to unlock, so you have to be pretty thorough in your exploration. And of course, what undersea game would be complete without buried treasure. This pirate booty is scattered about the levels in the form of small and large coins, and you will need to collect as much as you can to purchase upgrades in the later levels.
There are five chapters with ten stages in each. About halfway through the first chapter you will unlock your first of many Glow Chums, Mustang; the Seahorse. Mustang will travel with you attacking enemies and weakening their outer shell. You can upgrade Mustang with coins to do more damage making him an effective tool in combat. More Chums, each with their own unique abilities and upgrades await in future chapters and you get to pick the one you want before each level begins.
Glowfish has some impressive controls that other game developers should make note of. A virtual analog pad appears wherever you touch the screen, and the Speed Boost and Orbit mode buttons can be dragged around the screen to any location you like. This is easily one of the best control systems I’ve seen in the virtual analog stick genre. And if you don’t like the stick, you can even point on the screen and Glowfish will follow your finger.
The visuals look like they were lifted right from a Pixar movie. Everything is so vibrant and the neon colors pulse with a life of their own. The animations and special effects are delightful, the menus are fun, and the map screen works incredibly well and even hints at secret areas if you stare at it long enough. Imagine your favorite underwater screensaver has come to interactive life and you have just a hint of what’s in store for you with Glowfish. Even the simple sounds and charming melodies help to put you in that undersea hypnotic trance. You will lose complete track of time while playing Glowfish.
It’s going to take most gamers several hours to swim through all 50 levels; even more if you plan on locating all the collectibles, finding all the secret areas, earning all the cool achievements, and achieving a four-star rating on all the levels. Glowfish is quite simply one of the best iPad games I’ve played this year, and no iPad owner should miss out on this swimmingly good time. This is mobile entertainment at its best.