Fish ‘Em All! features some good ingredients for a fun pick-up-and-play arcade experience: nice colourful graphics, easy to learn gameplay and plenty of challenge.
The basic premise of the game is that you control one of two old, but spritely fishermen who frequent ponds filled with colourful fish ready and willing to leap out of the water to be caught in their nets. In each of three play modes your goal is to catch them in exchange for points.
The controls are fairly simple: the nunchuck moves your fisherman, the A button causes him to jump and the fish catching is done via motions. Your net can be raised up or lowered down and waving the Wii remote back-and-forth at the right time will catch the fish and add to your score. There is an alternate control scheme which uses the d-pad instead of the nunchuck for movement, but given the A button is still used to jump this is a bit impractical. Outside of some forearm fatigue I found the motion controls to work well and seeing as it is an arcade game, play sessions of 20-30min. are probably going to be the norm so you’re unlikely to get overly stressed from playing it.
The main game mode is Arcade Mode, which sees you trying to catch as many fish as possible across levels that have different settings and introduce further challenges. Every fish you catch gradually fills up a fish meter in the top corner of the screen; when you’ve filled up three fish meters the level ends and you go to the next until you run out of time. Things that run down the time limit are environmental hazards such as various animals on the dock you’re fishing from that will try to trip you up, creatures in the pond which will attack you or bombs that mysteriously jump out of the water along with the fish. Items that boost your time are a clock floating by on a balloon and glowing angler fish that periodically leap out of the water. Two players can compete for the high score at the same time with local leaderboards for bragging rights.
Challenge Mode presents a series of levels that can be played in any order and have pre-set win conditions, usually revolving around catching certain fish and avoiding others. Making a mistake ends the challenge though you’re welcome to retry. Some of these are quite difficult (level 8 requires you to catch every fish that jumps, so loads of waving and good timing are a must), but then this is the “challenge” mode isn’t it? As you complete them you unlock more challenge levels to try your hand at as well as levels that support two players.
The third game mode is Fishtris and this one is tied with the arcade mode as the most fun way to play the game. Instead of catching fish at will you need to catch them in groups of three of the same colour lest you fill up the fish bar on the side of the screen — of course you’re still trying to fill your fish metre to progress to the next level, and then there’s that timer to worry about! The glowing angler fish in this mode eat the fish in the bar on the side in case your fish bar is getting too full, but otherwise good reflexes and multi-tasking are required for success. Like the Arcade mode two-player simultaneous play is supported.
Graphics are quite nice with colourful 3D fish and other creatures. The fishermen are animated using a few frames and have a stop-motion character to them that harkens back to early arcade game character sprites (the victory dance at the end of the level is a two-step animation that brings to mind the chef’s arm waving at the end of a level in Burgertime). The designs are full of charm and who doesn’t like a bit of banjo music now and then?
Whilst more choice in the control method would have been appreciated by some, Abylight should be commended for bringing a game to WiiWare that effectively captures the spirit of classic arcade games.