Despite the best efforts from sparkling vampires, zombies are the classic horror fiends who have truly enjoyed a pop-culture resurgence. The un-dead beings have rotted and moaned their way across film, TV and games for a long time now. They’ve been able to run, they’ve been photographed and some have even attempted to fight plants; fresh zombie ideas are fast running out. Developers Aidem Media though manage to find an empty niche in an extremely filled sub-genre, creating a game around a zombie-fish protagonist.
Torn from his love and born (or, perhaps, died) out of a cruel experiment, Zombie Fish Tank follows the story of a recently-reanimated fish on his quest for revenge. The game’s premise is, like most of the arcade games published by Chillingo, nice and simple. Each level, which has a rating system based on multiplyers and combos, puts your undead hero in a fish tank (and many other backdrops as the game progresses) with other fish. Some of these fish can be eaten, some will eat you. As more and more of the smaller fish are consumed the titular character grows, allowing more enemies to be eaten. Levels are beaten when enough fish are munched on, sending the main character into a short ‘rage’ mode for a short burst of manic eating.
Controls can either be done by tilting the accelerometer or by an on-screen joystick, although the latter option lacks refinement. Levels are normally fairly short and sharp and after three missions on each zone comes a boss fight, which vary between pattern-based battles or various obstacles courses. These break up the game very nicely and introduce a great deal of variety to each level, although insta-death can turn some of the obstacle courses into quite tedious affairs. A couple of the worlds vary from the usual formulae and play for like runner games, where getting to the end rather than eating fish is the objective, which help to break up the monotony of levels.
Zombie Fish Tank’s real strength comes in its looks. Not only is it a beautiful looking game – the style would not look out of place on a modern cartoon – it is also fantastically designed and animated. Even down to the smallest detail, such as moving around the screen or coming close to an obstacle, has had a lot of attention paid to it in animation. The designs of consumable enemies are also brilliant; what start off as fish who look like they have spent too much of their lives near a nuclear power plant get more wacky and creative as the game progresses. A personal favourite was the ‘elbow fish’;you can tell the developers really had fun creating all the fish in the game.
Zombie Fish Tank has an in-game upgrade system using oil collected during missions. These can either enhance the power-ups occasionally dropped by eaten fish or can by unlocked fish to store in the main screen’s tank, which not only act as a nice ornament but increase the powers of the players fish. The micro-transaction system never feels intrusive or necessary to progress, which is also an added bonus when included in games.
Ultimately Zombie Fish Tank is a great package, a wonderfully designed game packed with 40 levels spread over 10 unique worlds. It’s downfall though is potentially a huge one, the gameplay itself can be a bit simple. Despite all the effort gone into creating the world and extras in the game, simply tilting the phone about to collect fish can become slightly repetitive. It is not until the latter stages where things start to really pick up. You are able to jump out of the water and eat birds, hop in and capsize boats (and sink the helicopters trying to rescue the drowning fisherman) before epic battles between the now gigantic Zombie fish and battle ships. The lure of boss battles helps and the pace of things does pick up later on but the opening stages can certainly be the wrong side of fun.
+Tonnes of levels
+Lots of variety
+Fun boss battles
-A couple boss battles frustrating
+Brilliant art style
+Varied themes fit world designs