At first glance, the life of a fish doesn’t seem like the most entertaining premise for a game, swimming about with pond scum and eating small insects while trying to avoid being served up with some tartare sauce seems a bit removed from the traditionally adrenaline fuelled video game fare.
With the 2010 Xbox Live Arcade title Fish Listening to Radio, however, PopCannibal have lovingly created a beautifully relaxing tribute to the wonders of fishy life. Available for 80 Microsoft Points (around 63p) you compete with up to three other friends to steal some tasty worm bait off of the hooks of a seemingly endless horde of fishermen (occasionally nibbling on a startled starfish for some bonus points) while all the time making sure that these fishermen don’t whisk away the portable radio that sits on the seabed which plays a gentle looping ukulele melody.
… cathartic crunches of snacking on the fish …
As twee as it sounds, the combination of the lilting ukulele and the hand drawn graphics are initially the real draw of this budget enterprise. As you devour more worms and snack on the starfish, the 2D backdrop gradually grows from its pencil outline beginnings to become more and more colourful, the crayon shading extending from the fishes out towards a crayon shaded balmy sun beaming down. You control your fish solely through gently pushing the left analogue stick; the cathartic crunches of snacking on the fish coupled with visual impact on the environment manage in their simplicity to completely involve you in this childishly innocent world.
What will keep you playing past the initial novelty though is the multiplayer experience. In the modern gaming world, where online multiplayer is the cornerstone of many games’ appeal, some of the fun of previous generations of consoles in huddling round the television with your friends actually there beside you has disappeared a little. Fish Listening to Radio works on the classic formula weighing co-operation against competition, the simple compulsion to trump your friends’ score weighed against the necessity of protecting the radio (which if lost ends the game for all) creating a playing experience that has tension, laughter and most importantly, fun. Uniting all of you under the common goal of making sure that the hypnotising ukulele rhythm doesn’t let up it brings you together in the kind of shared experience that made games such as Micro Machines and Worms so addictive.
… settle down to spend a pleasant half hour …
As well as being available for pennies on the Live Arcade, you can also play Fish Listening to Radio for free on-line as a flash game, which cannot be recommend enough (although it admittedly does lose a little bit of the fun of the intuitive control of the analogue stick), at their site.
To really enjoy it though, just make sure you have assembled a few friends to share keyboard or controllers and settle down to spend a pleasant half hour simply having fun.
Image courtesy of PopCannibal