Ridiculous Fishing captures the essence of mobile gaming

The long-awaited game raises the bar for indie devs

Stop. Stop it now. I need to force myself to get some writing done and quit playing another round of Vlambeer's latest concoction, Ridiculous Fishing. Following the success of the punitive and addictive arcade-ish Super Crate Box, the developer has released a long-awaited mobile version of the Flash game that inspired titles that don't deserved to be mentioned.

I can already tell you the wait has been worth it. During this time, Vlambeer's Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman have partnered with la crème de la crème of the indie iOS scene, putting together a team close to the rock band of your dreams: conceptual genius Zach Gage (SpellTower), graphic designer Greg Wohlwend (Solipskier, Puzzlejuice, Gasketball, Hundreds) and musician Eirik Suhrke (Spelunky, Hotline Miami).

Ridiculous Fishing is a simple and repetitive affair divided in three stages. As fisherman Billy, you throw the fishing line into the water, letting it sink as much as possible. You do this by tilting the device, avoiding contact with the fish, which trigger the reeling. As soon as you hook the first one, the line goes up. Instead of one catch, you might as well try to get as many fish as you encounter on your way to the surface. This is also achieved by tilting, in this case trying to grab as many creatures as possible.

If this mechanic wasn't ridiculous enough, the third part requires you to fling the catch up in the air and shoot them dead — by tapping like a mad man — before they drop into the ocean. The water doesn't turn too bloody, though. Once the three-part exercise is completed, you automatically collect cash for fish. This money can be spent in upgrades and add-ons, eventually helping you to reach deeper layers of the ocean that hide rarer and more precious species. Going deeper also increases your catch numbers, as spending more time ascending means you have more time to collect fish. The three parts are directly tied and feed into each other, boosting the cocaine-addition factor and the honest wish to "try again".

Simple and pure grinding for money

Although Ridiculous Fishing lives from the will to earn cash and unlock upgrades in the "Shack Shoppe", there's no monetisation or in-app-purchase at all. This allows the developer to pace the progression of the game and the player to understand that everything is available and achievable.

The simple gameplay extends its life in a big way thanks to upgrade items. In fact, these are crucial to extend the shelf life, as the game could turn repetitive quickly. Reel upgrades allow you to reach further depths and guns change the shooting power incrementally. The items labelled as lures and tech do change the game significantly and force you to change your style, adding fresh air to the same level you just completed.

Another reason why you'll keep retrying levels is the Pokémon-style collection aspect. With every run, you could discover knew fish species to catch and add to the Fish-o-pedia — the game's own Pokédex. Apart from the lucrative side of it, discovering new species is the key to progress to the two other levels, and eventually the endless mode where you can compete against Game Center friends.

Joyful art and music marriage

The additional layer of polish is what elevates Ridiculous Fishing and separates it from the vulgar games on the App Store. The graphic style is based on diagonals, using flat colours without texture and dynamic lighting effects. This is actually a very good choice to break the vertical lines of a game that is always played on portrait orientation. The 45 degree angles break that monotony. The subtle music brings the whole thing together, pacing the sawing and the reeling almost like playing the same melody in reverse. The bizarre premise of shooting fish is even dressed with some cryptic backstory and an unexpected ending that catches you by surprise.

It would be unfair to see Ridiculous Fishing as a mobile game. It's a tiny showcase of digital art. Given Vlambeer's record, the game was expected to include short and addictive mechanics, which are a perfect fit for the platform. This one doesn't disappoint. The extravagant production value thanks to the input of Gage, Wohlwend and Suhrke is impressive; they mix in a perfect blend to a level that will be difficult to see replicated in other apps.