As an iOS gamer, I tend to look at the more expensive games as opposed to the free or even 69p games because, as a rule, you tend to get better quality, more enjoyment and you don’t fill your phone’s precious memory with crap. £1.99 is a steep price for any 2D iOS game, and I don’t think Glowfish quite lives up to the price tag.
By guiding your little Glowfish through the vibrant abyss, you must collect other smaller creatures known as ‘Friends’ that will tag along behind you and can also be used as a shield-come-force field called ‘Orbit’ mode. The more Friends you have following, the bigger your barrier becomes when you decide to use it. However, the creatures are required in order to open gates scattered throughout each level. These gates act as your checkpoint, and often absorb most, if not all, of your creatures. These Friends also act as your life bar. If you have none with you, a single hit could kill you.
As for attacking your enemies, there are two main attacks. First of all, you can circle an enemy repeatedly to shrink its shield until it either disappears or is smaller than yours, when you can then select the Orbit ability and crash straight into it. This will grant you another creature and will bring you closer to mastering the level. Secondly, if you’re big enough, you can simply bash your way through all enemies in Orbit mode. Putting it simply, the largest fish in the sea wins, so attacking the smaller enemies first is usually the best solution (Osmos and a few other games come to mind).
When battling your way through crabs, fish and other plankton-like characters, the environment changes in complexity, traps become more frequent and everything becomes generally harder. And this is where I began to lose interest. I began to notice that without any followers the enemies were incredibly difficult to pass by, and I would often be killed by a small bubble of all things, in an area full of teeth and claws that I was successfully dodging. Checkpoints became further apart, and frustration increased.
To make things worse, the virtual analogue stick (!) really limits how you can move in a tight space when the slightest movement can mean a loss of 15 minutes gameplay. I find that it’s a real shame MumboJumbo decided that a virtual analogue stick would be the best control method. I believe that if a game feels like it should be played with a control pad, the developers really haven’t thought about the platform they’re developing for. Having said that, many games do use this control scheme and if you do like the stick, you have nothing to worry about.
Onto pointless mechanics. I can’t figure out why there are ‘Boost’s in Glowfish (possibly to make up for the awful analogue?). Almost every time a boost is used, you can’t help but fly into an enemy or spikey wall before you’ve even seen it coming. Not to mention the fact that you miss valuable collectables and secret areas in the process. They are often placed near traps that you really don’t need boosts to make it past; I even made a point of purposely dodging the boost as the section is then timing-based and slightly more fun. Oh and when you manually use a boost, you lose a friend! Meaning no four star rating unless you go back for it which completely makes the boost irrelevant in the first place.
Progression through the levels unlocks ‘Glow Chums’. These are other characters that swim close to Glowfish and each have their own separate ability. These aren’t very useful. The odd one or two are slightly useful, but most are just plain pointless. For example, the third ‘Chum’ to unlock emits a ‘circle of sonic wave’ that will send enemies hurling across the area, away from the player, eliminating the threat. Sounds good right? Wrong. What it actually does is send massive enemies at you, or sends them away when you’re trying to kill them. And of course, another Chum increases your boost speed and I don’t need to say anything about how useless that is.
The environments themselves are quite nicely designed, with changing colours and strange glowing plants that flail in the current. There are plenty of small features that make a big difference such as light shafts and lack of lighting in certain areas. They go well with the nice soothing music to create a fairly slow and peaceful atmosphere. There’s a regular sound of dripping water that led me to think it was set in a partially underwater magical cave more so than the depths of the ocean, which I believe is a nicer way of looking at it.
The rare story screens have a very nice 3D parallax effect that moves with the device’s Giro movement, and may possibly be the best I have ever seen of its kind. It’s a shame that the artistic effect couldn’t have been put to more use within the menus somewhere. The menus are pretty generic but have a good set of buttons. By selecting a bubble button, it will wobble entertainingly; however, the sound effect is always the same.
Overall, Glowfish is a mediocre game that I’m sure a handful of people will really enjoy. Fifty levels spaced over 5 worlds that gradually get more difficult are bound to keep people playing for at least 3-4 hours; however, there seems to be many unnecessary things going on and plenty of room for improvement. I would like to have seen some innovative use of the touch screen instead of the chosen controls that I could only really enjoy if my iPhone had a control pad. £1.99 is asking a lot for an iOS game of this standard – I think 69p would be a little more realistic.