Features & Use
Free Fish! is a great little game for Android which can best be described as a kind of puzzle game in the spirit of Bejeweled or Candy Crush. Unlike so many offshoots in the same style of ''match three' games, the creators of Free Fish! took a different tack and incorporated their own unique approach to the genre that also happens to increase the entertainment value significantly.
The background story to the game is as simple as it is moving. Various sea creatures have been caught in nets and it is now up to us, as a friend of the environment, to free these innocent creatures. As luck would have it, this is achieved by creating rows of at least three animals of the same color. The trick here is that there are five of these 3x3 nets that can also be moved around to create different combination possibilities. The game offers a really great tutorial that introduces the player step by step to the different game modes. The main difference is that fish move to the free spaces in the net, rather than the standard place-swapping approach.
Free Fish! features more than just the usual hunt for the high score and has a variety of game variations to please any customer. Each version of the game brings its own introduction, which is similar to the basic tutorial and are equally well done. The individual variants differ markedly from one another, which is particularly due to the additional sea creatures in each that bring a diversity of tactics with them. The normal mode is very exciting and enjoyable, but in the long run can also be a bit monotonous, even though the core aspect of matching color combinations and the constant fear of the sudden end (due to lack of possible combinations), is quite strong. The movable nets also add to this, but it is still vaguely familiar territory.
In the additional game modes though, players can battle against the clock, trying to free as many fish as possible in a given time, do a marathon stretch or challenge a friend in a direct duel. The fish here are supplemented by shellfish, eels and other sea creatures that possess very different skills and characteristics. This is where the real fun lies. For example, eels are able to change the nets and mussels have a short period during which the pearl is visible, making any match-ups worth more. These elements require the player to rethink their approach constantly, so the monotony of the game genre in general is avoided. If all these competitive aspects are too stressful for you, you can just settle in to ''relaxed'' mode, where you can have plenty of fish and nets (great for passing the time on public transport) and just casually work on your skills.
But even with the otherwise good performance of Free Fish! there are a few opportunities for improvement. Although a direct duel between two players is possible, a game on the internet is not (yet). Furthermore, the Crab system is too intrusive in the game to be able to guarantee fair competition against other players. Crabs are earned through diligent play, but they can also be purchased via in-app purchase. This would be no problem if the use of Crabs was limited within a game (to perhaps two or three). But since Crabs can eliminate complete nets, a clear advantage is held by anyone with lots of them, and this is especially visible in normal mode. Considering Free Fish! has a Play Games integration, this unbalanced playing field is a difficult issue that needs to be evaluated individually by each player.
Screen & Controls
Free Fish! has a really successful graphical and musical presentation. The entire application makes a good impression and all controls were accurate and responsive.
Speed & Stability
Free Fish! ran flawlessly during the trial period.
For 1.20 Euros (around $1.60), the advertisements can be removed from the otherwise free application. Five Crabs cost 1 Euro (around $1.35). The Crabs can also be acquired by diligent gaming and you get a few for free at the start.
Free Fish! has really made for a lot of fun during the test period and I am more than happy to fully recommend the game. While an internet-based multiplayer option is missing, this has been compensated for by the integration of a turn-based two player mode (so far). Nevertheless, this is no comparison to the competition against remote opponents, even if there is the Crab issue to contend with.
Free Fish! brings its own issues and ideas to the table that give the game its own unique identity. The game is fun, it has a high replay value and it is always good for a quick game on the fly. The topic of in-app purchases should be a consideration, but they should definitely not stop you from trying the app out (they are not essential to progress or play). Get this one caught in your net and see how you like it!