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iPad Game Review: Fishdom HD
      11/27/10 05:12 PM

iPad Game Review: Fishdom HD
Reviewed by Guy Dayen

The Fishdom series from Playrix finally comes to the iPad! I've played this game time and again on my Mac laptop for the last few months, and I've enjoyed it a lot. My wife really likes it too. We find ourselves coming back to it every few days to add a few more elements, or a new fish or two. The gameplay can be very addictive, as you try to rack up big scores on each level to get the most money you can and build up your own customized aquarium. The iPad version gives us a chance to start a brand new aquarium, and we don't have to worry anymore about who gets the next turn. We can happily alternate our little fishy universes.

Gameplay

Fishdom HD is one of the newest Match 3 games to come to the iPad, and it?s easily one of the very best examples of the genre. Fishdom HD was first developed for the PC and Mac market, and this experience has enabled Playrix to deliver a truly polished game for the iPad platform. For fans of the genre, this is a must-have game.



The aim of the game is to make matches with various items on the game board. You must make a match with three items at a minimum. Even better are matches of four, five, six or seven items, because they trigger power-ups like firecrackers, bombs, rockets and lightning bolts; these power-ups help you clear the board faster, and rack up tons of points.

Clearing the board finishes a level, and points are given for eliminating gold squares, making the most matches you can, and still having time left on the level timer. All these points convert to cash, which you can use to buy various items to build up and customize your very own fish tank. The purchases are divided in three categories: fish, comfort and beauty. Fish is obvious: you want a lot of finny little creatures populating your tank and interacting with the environment. Comfort items will bring the essential elements for your fish to live well: light, warmth, food, etc. Beauty items will make your tank look great: you can buy plants and decorations for the fish to explore.

Balancing these three categories is important, because your progress in each category is measured; once all three progress bars are filled, you earn trophies and you can unlock additional aquariums to build up. You can upgrade your bought items to improve your tank and earn silver and gold trophies for each tank you build, so there?s a lot of replay value in Fishdom HD. It?s an ever-evolving process, and it gives purpose to the match 3 portion of the game. You?re striving for an ultimate goal; the greatest virtual aquarium ever created.



As much fun as it was to play on my laptop, I like the iPad version even better because of the touchscreen capabilities of the iPad. Swiping items to make matches feels much more natural on the iPad. A little swipe of the finger, and your match is made. I even had our five-year old goddaughter try it out, and she got the hang of it in a minute. She had fun, too, but this game is a little too time-intensive for the very young. It?s probably better suited to a slightly older child of seven or eight. It?s a great game for the whole family, as everyone can share in the making of the aquatic masterpiece.

Graphics

Graphic are beautifully done in Fishdom HD. The underwater backgrounds are the canvas upon which you build your various aquariums, and they look wonderful on the iPad?s high-res screen. You then add the to the tank by placing the items you bought where you want them, and watch your fish interact with each other and the objects you placed in your aquarium. Everything has a nice 3D feel to it, and the amount of detail put into the design of each element is just incredible. Playrix obviously wanted to continue the high level of quality found elsewhere in the Fishdom franchise.

There are quite a large variety of available fish, plants and decorative items to purchase and every last one looks gorgeous. You won?t lack for choice, and you can really unleash your creativity in designing your fish tank. The plants move quite realistically, the fish swim in and out of view, and the bubbles rising give the feel of a real tank in action. Whatever your choices and your design esthetic, the end result will look terrific.



Sound

There is a nice, relaxing soundtrack in Fishdom HD. There is enough variation in the music that you won?t have the same eight notes running in your head over and over again.

The sounds in your aquarium are muted, as befits the whole underwater environment theme. This is a very quiet game, so it?s perfect for a late-night session that won?t bother the people around you. There are a few music cues linked to some of the events in the game (like finishing a level for example) that are louder, but overall, the music is quiet and pleasant. There is no option to play your own music, but in a game like this, it?s not really necessary. I rather like the peaceful mood.

Conclusion

Fishdom HD is definitely one of the very best match 3 games on the iTunes store. It can be very addictive, as you can feel like playing just one more level will finally give you all the coins you need to buy those beautiful castle ruins that would go just right in that one corner of the tank, just behind the ghost plant. It?s a very enjoyable experience to plan and tweak your tank.

The developer has indicated that there is more content coming soon, which will be geared to the holidays. There are already a Halloween theme and a Thanksgiving theme available for the Mac, and I'm hoping these will be the ones ported to the iPad. I'd love to see a Christmas theme next. I highly recommend this game. It's easy to learn, easy to play, and building your own customized aquarium is really fun.

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): 5

Graphics: - 5 - Beautiful design, and a great variety of elements. Superior quality all around.
Sound: - 4 - The music is pleasant. Sound effects are well done, but minimal. Normal for an underwater game, though, isn?t it ?
Controls: - 5 - These are extremely responsive, and so easy to use on the iPad. They beat the mouse trackpad controls any day.
Gameplay: - 5 - One of the very best match 3 games available for the iPad platform. You can play for five minutes or for an hour. Great casual game that?s fun to play for everyone in the family.

Playing Hints and Tips:

-Watch your fish - they will indicate which elements they would like added to the tank to make them happy.

-Little hearts over your fish mean that they are content. You made good choices for your tank.

-The more items you match all at once, the better the power-up you will get. Plan carefully where you will detonate a power-up to achieve the maximum effect!


App Facts:

Developer: Playrix
Release Date: Nov 25, 2010
Price: $4.99
Buy App: Fishdom HD

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Check out our full list of iPhone/iPod touch game reviews:
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http://www.mobiletechreview.com/iPad-game-reviews.htm

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