Fish Epic is the latest “Epic” puzzle game from 6waves. Like most recent match-three games, it is heavily inspired by King’s highly successful Candy Crush Saga. Levels are spread out on a map and come with a variety of objectives and board shapes. Successful completion of a level will earn you stars while failure will cost you a life. Facebook integration makes it easy to challenge your friends, compare your scores, and beg them to send you extra lives.
As you might expect, Fish Epic features all kinds of cuddly sea creatures. Surprisingly, your journey through the fish game takes place in the bright blue sky — not that that really has any impact on gameplay. The matchable fish only come in four colors, making Fish Epic a bit simpler than most of its fellow match-three games. Each color of fish has a unique look, but they’re all bug-eyed and pretty dang cute. The fish have cheeky little animations whenever you click on them, too.
Fish Epic is, for the most part, exactly what you’d expect from a Candy Crush clone. Whimsical graphics, charming music, and lots of flashy explosive matches support compulsive just-one-more-level gameplay. Matches of 4-in-a-row, 5-in-a-row, T-shapes, and L-shapes all create powerful special tiles that clear entire rows and columns at a time. In-game currency can be spent to purchase consumable boosters or extra turns to help you finish those really hard levels. Losing causes you to lose one of your five lives, but you get one back every 25 minutes.
There are a couple of gameplay differences that make Fish Epic unique though. First: all power-ups can be triggered whenever you want by clicking on them. You don’t need to match them with anything and it doesn’t take up one of your moves to fire one off. Second: like matching four or five fish at once, making multiple same-colored matches in a row creates a special tile. Specifically, making matches of four or five fish creates rockets that destroy entire rows and/or columns while chaining same-colored matches creates mines that destroy 3×3 or 5×5 blocks of tiles.
These facts combine to create some pretty interesting gameplay strategies. Most levels ask you to collect a certain number of specifically colored fish (for example, 24 yellow fish and 18 red fish). Even if you don’t need purples, a board full of purples may make it worth your while to match them all so you can create a handful of powerful mines. The fish you destroy with rockets and mines count toward your collection total just as much as the ones you actually make matches with, and remember that triggering rockets and mines doesn’t use up any of your precious moves. Once you get a board going, you can create very long patterns of matching same-colored fish to make a bunch of mines, triggering the mines to make room for more fish, then making more matches of that same color to make even more mines.
I am actually a big fan of the changes 6waves has made to the special tiles in match-three. It gives you the option to mitigate bad luck. That is, you can still win when you need greens but your board is full of reds. Can’t get enough greens to make matches? That’s okay, you can blow them up with rockets and mines. Being able to freely choose when you want to trigger the special tiles adds some great strategic decision-making to the core gameplay. Ultimately, I think the gameplay is significantly deeper than Candy Crush and its ilk, but the gameplay is a bit easier too. The rockets and mines give the player significantly more strategic options, but they also give the play significantly more power.
In general, having more power and deeper strategy means more fun, at least in my book. Fish Epic isn’t outrageously easy, but its lower difficulty compared to Candy Crush may actually be welcome in gamers who prefer their match-three games to be strictly casual — Fish Epic is simply less frustrating than some of those other puzzles games that spike up the difficulty by the time you’re tens of levels into the game.
Fish Epic’s monetization scheme is nothing new. Besides loading the ads that appear beside Fish Epic, players can send their money to 6waves to purchase the in-game premium currency: Cash. Cash can be used to purchase extra moves, consumable but powerful booster items, instant life refills, or an extra life slot. That last one is particularly interesting to me: if you spend about $ 5 worth of Cash, you can permanently increase your maximum number of lives to 6. I imagine you can spend even more to further increase this maximum.
The biggest problem with Fish Epic is that it currently just doesn’t have many levels. The journey through the sky currently lasts only 60 levels. More are promised, but players who start now should be able to hit level 60 before long (compared to Candy Crush’s 300+ levels). Given, the difficulty does ramp up and you can get some extra value by replaying levels to get a score worthy of three stars.
There’s hardly anything else to complain about though. Fish Epic is not amazing by any stretch, but it’s very competent and worthy of your time. It’s not a strict Candy Crush clone, with some new mechanics spicing up the core gameplay and adding some much-appreciated strategic depth. If you’re in the market for a less frustrating match-three game that gives you more control, maintains a cute factor, and doesn’t have annoying circus music, Fish Epic will be a great match for you (terrible pun intended).
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