IFComp 2007: Slap That Fish

And we come to the last game, a bit of nonsense by Peter Nepstad. Yes, that Peter Nepstad. Spoilers follow the break.

My first impression of this game was that it was a trifle along the lines of You Are A Chef! and Pass the Banana. The premise is that you’re pursued into an alley by a series of fish, starting with a rainbow trout and eventually proceeding to things like sharks and electric eels. You have to beat them up. Descriptions gradually fill in a backstory in which many of your family members were killed by fish in one way or another, and as the violence escalates, onlookers hail you as a hero against piscine oppression.

The gameplay is actually deeper than it seems at first glance. You don’t just type “attack fish” over and over again. There are multiple attacks: punch, kick, slap, and backhand, all usually but not always equivalent. And the fish are more like videogame boss monsters than generic RPG mobs: with the exception of the first one, they all have gimmicks. Some of the fish require puzzle-solving. Even when puzzle-solving isn’t required, it’s often the key to trouncing the fish quickly. And efficiency is rewarded. After every victory, you get a report on how many turns and how many attacks you used, and are awarded up to 20 points on that basis. Getting the full 20 points often requires using sequences of attacks (most often the slap/backhand combo) that do more damage and/or are less tiring — you have limited stamina, which regenerates while you spend turns doing anything other than attacking. The only other numerical stat is the number of hit points the fish has. With only one exception that I noticed (the wily piranha), there’s no randomization. The whole system is a decent approach to the problem of making combat in IF interesting, and puts the authors using more conventional combat systems to shame. Especially when you consider the foolishness it’s done for here.

So, it’s got a good combat mechanic and a strong sense of humor, but the story is minimal and, since the fish operate by Hong Kong kung fu rules, the game is overall extremely linear. The linearity is mitigated somewhat by the use of optional challenges — you don’t have to beat a fish the optimal way to keep going — but eventually you get fish that just plain can’t be touched by ordinary means. It seems unlikely to me that anyone will get all the way through this game without consulting the walkthrough at least once.

Rating: 5

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