Thursday, September 07, 2006

Review: Fish Fillets NG

Fish Fillets NG is the fan-project result of the open sourcing of the original commercial title Fish Fillets from Altar Interactive. It is a fiendishly challenging and addictive puzzle game and is refreshingly original in a genre epitomised by evolutions of popular classics.

You take on the role of two fish who are caught up in a fairly silly plot to, I think, save the ocean. The gameplay is oriented around using the two fish - one is small, the other strong - to escape a series of fiendishly difficult levels.

Clever Level Design

Lovely Graphics

You can only use your fish to move obstacles in certain ways. They can lift objects - although only the shark can lift metal objects - and push them over ground or other objects. They can't carry objects on their own though and moving an object directly over the back of a fish or dropping an object on a fish will kill it.

The level design is very clever. On many levels, not only must you perform a sequence of manoevoures to overcome obstacles but you also have to be forward thinking to make it possible to escape once the initial challenges are beaten.

The graphics are very nicely drawn, as you might expect from a formerly commercial title. The characters and levels are well animated and the fish often engage in witty banter between themselves or with other characters in a level. There are voices to accompany the subtitled text but sadly they are currently only available in Czech (the roots of the original developers). The music is palettable although repetitive after a while - and playing this game takes a good long while.

Oh so small yet so hard!

Multiple Branches

Then there is the main attraction of this game. It is hard. It is really hard. So many games are just so easy, using the same wash/rinse/repeat cycle of throwing enemies or similar puzzles at you. Not Fish Fillets. The levels vary greatly and get tougher and tougher as the game goes on. Some will take you days or even weeks to complete. It is also addictive, highly addictive. A challenging game draws you back for more and this will have you pondering over potential solutions for hours and hours. There are 70 levels to tackle and that is plenty if you consider how long some levels take to figure out. This is a game that the vast majority of players will never complete, which probably makes completing the game even more satisfying - I haven't completed it yet!

A clever thought by the original designers was to use branches for accessing new levels instead of a linear progression. Given how challenging some levels are, if there weren't other options you could easily just give up and stop playing, but fortunately there's always several levels to play at any one time.

Just in case the allure of beating the puzzles wasn't enough, there's also a global hall of fame to see who has come up with the best solutions for each level in the game. Equalling the best score for a level can often be harder than beating the level itself.

This game is released as version 0.7 at the time of writing. It is fully playable from start to finish and I haven't come across any significant bugs in probably close to a hundred hours of playing time. For immediate future development I'd like to see consolidation of existing features into the options - such as fullscreen or toggling speech. Currently you have to specify fullscreen or speech as a parameter when starting the game which is a little daunting for a novice computer user.

In the long term it would be nice to see perhaps a level editor for fanmade contributions, a transition to vector based graphics so they scale better, and voicesets for other languages - especially English. Currently the development list is a little quiet but one can always hope.

I recommend this game to anybody who fancies a challenge. It's a refreshing break from the usual 3D-fest games that you can't escape from these days. Who knows, maybe you can escape from some of the Fish Fillets levels instead!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! (goes off to try out Fish Fillets NG :-) )

Anonymous said...

Press F11 to get the fullscreen.

Actually you could see all these hidden shortcuts when pressing F1 inside any room.

And press F10 for menu to set your preferred language.

Thanks for good review, I reminded me the hours with this game.

Charlie said...

Another short-ish term feature would be player profiles. It can be frustrating if my friends want to play because I don't want to create a separate login for each person! Or if I want to start again [you might, y'know!] to see how quick I can do it...

Anonymous said...

charlie: you could create a separate guest account for visitors, or for a more quick-n-dirty solution just move the .fillets folder in you home directory. A new one will be created, and you can move the old one back later to get your settings back.

(Odd, I can't see the captcha in firefox, but I can in konqueror. It always tells me the is 404'ed!)

Charlie said...

I still haven't completed it. It got too hard and I didn't want to cheat despite finding a full walkthrough online.

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