Ridiculous Fishing for iOS lives up to its name, but in a good way

It's not hard to see why Ridiculous Fishing is rapidly gaining App Store popularity

Ridiculous Fishing, a $3 universal app for iOS, is the story of a fisherman who is uniquely committed to piscine genocide: he riddles his catches with bullet holes. Featuring different gameplay motions - you toss the line, reel in the lure, and then shoot your haul, all within a single round - Ridiculous Fishing is fun without being too repetitive. Paired with a premise that's just, well, ridiculous, it's not hard to see why the app is rapidly gaining App Store popularity.

This mobile masterpiece is a reboot of Radical Fishing, an online Flash-based game also designed by indie gaming studio Vlambeer. According to Rami Ismail, Vlambeer's business and development lead, both games were inspired by actual, real-life tuna fish coursing languidly through the sky.

"[It's] based on a documentary about tuna fishing and this really amazing slow-motion shot," Ismail recalls during an interview with TechHive. "The fishermen hadn't caught anything for days when suddenly they hit this giant flock of tuna, and there was this slow-motion shot of all that tuna being flung through the air."

At its core, Ridiculous Fishing is a cyclic endeavor focused on efficiency. You play the role of the fisherman, and you start by dropping your fishing line into the colorful, 8-bit water. The idea here is to go as deep as your line permits you, something that can only be accomplished by deftly avoiding the ocean's underwater creatures. (One of the game's power-ups is a battery-powered chainsaw that cuts through any fish in its path on the way down, but we'll get to that later.) Your line automatically reels back up once it reaches its end length, or if it catches a fish on its way down.

Once your line is ensnared, the game shifts focus again: it becomes an attempt to snag as many fish as you can on the way up. When your line is reeled in, your fish bounty is hurled up into the air, and you have to shoot each and every one of your acquisitions by tapping on them. Each kill earns you cash, which is used to buy additional equipment and upgrades at the shop that help prepare you before you return to the briny deeps. Some species are worth more than others, and you can only move on to the next level when you catch a certain number of species.

The variety of gameplay is what Ismail likes most about Ridiculous Fishing. "It always gives you the sense that you're doing something useful, that your time is not being wasted," he explains. "Even if you're having a terrible run, you're still doing something useful, and you're getting money and finding new species."

Ismail's words are definitely not just bluster either: Ridiculous Fishing keeps you preoccupied at every possible interval. During the descent through the ocean, you won't just have to avoid bumping into a member of the game's diverse population of fish, you'll also have to contend with aggressive piranha and unprofitable jellyfish. Snag one of the latter, and you'll be on the receiving end of a bumpy journey and a smaller paycheck. It's the same with the line's return to the surface: steer clear of the jellyfish and other denizens of the deep. (Helpful hint: buy the Fish-o-Pedia to help you remember which fish mean cash, and which mean trouble.)

In the shooting phase, you'll have to pick your battles--do you go for the hard-shelled crustaceans worth more money, or the easier targets worth less? It's an intricate, wonderfully thought-out dance, one that has each sequence powering the next within the queue, creating a self-sufficient loop.

"It's that perfect loop that fascinated us to come up with an iOS version of the game after someone proposed it," Ismail explains.

Another amusing aspect of Ridiculous Fishing is Byrdr, a fake social media app within the game. Though initially absent of much besides superfluous conversation, it later becomes the vehicle for the game's plot. (Yes, there's an actual storyline.)

But the narrative bits aren't quite necessary. If you just want to shoot fish and purchase every upgrade within the shop without so much as a glance at Byrdr, that's fine: Ismail and the Ridiculous Fishing team designed the game to be played with different objectives.

"For some, Ridiculous Fishing is a fun game about shooting fish and for others, it can mean so many other things," Ismail said. "Watching people make the game their own has been really, really cool."

Though Ridiculous Fishing is great, it's not without its flaws. The game's interface can be difficult to decipher at times, and Ismail mentioned that there have been complaints about the phone button - your avenue to Byrdr, your map, and the store - being hard to find. Ridiculous Fishing is riddled with similar, tiny imperfections, many of which will hopefully be corrected with the next app update; Ismail estimates that this will be shortly after the Game Developers Conference later in March.

That said, these will not be quick fixes. Ismail hinted that there's more content to come, inclusive of a second storyline. Unfortunately, none of this is going to make an appearance before Ridiculous Fishing matches Vlambeer's standards.

"We really feel that Ridiculous Fishing is something special that we're proud about and unless we can max that level, we don't want to release anything new."

Bottom line

Ridiculous Fishing is the kind of game you play on the subway, on the train, on a curb corner as you wait for a friend--it's simple, satisfying and ruthlessly intent on convincing you that just one more turn will not jeopardize your sleep.