Ironically, the most popular story about Ridiculous Fishing concerns the clone that copied its core idea. Game cloning, albeit with different graphics, is unfortunately common practice in the mobile games market. Vlambeer were hit hard when a replica of their game was released before the genuine article. Their struggle with Ridiculous Fishing reflected the whole industry’s difficulties: creativity and originality are not always respected. The questions it raised propelled the game’s credibility, but best of all: Ridiculous Fishing is a brilliant piece of design.
Its premises are, indeed, ridiculous: fishing and shooting are combined in one frantic move. You’re an apparently tranquil fisherman that has to make their bait go as deep into the sea as possible while avoiding every obstacle. When you pull it up and fetch your catch, it will subsequently be propelled in the air. At that point, of course, you finish the job by dispatching your catch with miniguns.
This is Vlambeer’s unconventional design style: a deconstruction of old school game genres, namely the classic shoot’em up, where classic tropes are neglected in favor of bizarre game situations. Dribbling through obstacles is reminiscent of 80’s arcade games, while shooting flying targets refers to Nintendo’s classic Duck Hunt. These elements are brilliantly adapted to touchscreen devices, creating a game that is both immediate and deep: the qualities every mobile game wishes to have.
The same ideas inspired LUFTRAUSERS, another take on the shoot’em up genre with a Vlambeer twist. The game presentation is classic: your little fighting jet is pit against hordes of enemies, including powerful battleships. But rather than taking them on one by one, you’ll left to freely roam the skies. You’ll shift from chasing them to running away. Your mission is a matter of endurance, but in the end you will be shot down.
Despite this harsh challenge, LUFTRAUSERS feels free and open. The jet is a joy to control, as the plane can just float around or free fall. In typical Vlambeer fashion, the power ups are much more than simple add-ons, but allow new game possibilities. For example, they can create a slow but tough jet, allowing your jet to perform (and survive) kamikaze attacks. On the other hand, the plane can be made lighter and faster, changing the game into a speed run.
With Ridiculous Fishing and LUFTRAUSERS, the Vlambeer team perfected a design style that mixes over the top ideas with classic elements. The games’ best qualities are probably their ease to learn and play, yet being surprisingly deep. Simple concepts are explored through minimal variations that reveal new possibilities and a well-balanced discovery path for the player.
Platforms: iOS (version tested), Android
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita (version tested), Android