Game Review: Jumpy Fish

Fish being fish they feel compelled to swim but you'll have to help them avoid obstacles because they're just not quite smart enough to know when to jump for themselves in this free casual game.

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 14 June 2019
Category: Review Comments View Comments


The Jumpy Fish title screen and opening screen

Jumpy Fish is an endless runner (jumper?) casual game for Android devices that was developed (coding and art) by South African developer Dave Ward of Red Dawn Studios. (The music and sound is from Motion Array.)

While the overall mechanic might have been inspired by Flappy Bird this game is not a clone - it really is very much its own entity and offers a great combination of addictive gameplay and a fantastic visual aesthetic.

YouTube link

As the name implies, in Jumpy Fish you help a swimming fish jump through, or over, obstacles in the sea. The main obstacle is a set of pipes with a gap in the middle that you have to aim for and get through without bashing your head but there are also obstacles, such as sharks, that you'll have to jump over in order to keep swimming. Each successful jump adds one to your score, which becomes the metric of your success at the end of the run.

As you play a run Jumpy Fish gets more difficult: the gaps between the poles get smaller, the game speeds up a little, and the poles moves up and down so you have to time your jump just right to make sure you approach at the right angle.

There are also coins scattered throughout the area, which you collect as they are important for unlocking new fish. You'll grab most of them automatically as you jump through the pipe gaps (although it is possible to miss them if you don't aim properly) but occasionally there will be a few hovering above the sea that you can aim for with a jump. They're worth different amounts of points, depending on whether you have a coin multiplier powerup active and whether they are bronze, silver, or gold - or the elusive rainbow coin that's worth many more points, especially with the coin multiplier in play.

Some of the characters you will unlock in Jumpy Fish

New fish may just be cosmetic or they may have one or more powerups that can help you in your game - the coin multiplier, a boost to zip through the first few jumps of the game very quickly, and an extra life. Most of the fish are parodies of pop-culture characters from animation, film, and television, as well as celebrities from politics and music, and the excitement as to who it's going to be and what the character's power(s) might be is one of the most charming aspects of the game.

The control system and animation is very, very fluid, smooth, and responsive, with just one tap to jump, so the only frustration you experience is when you make a mistake in timing your jump - the game never causes you to make a mistake due to bad programming or animation or lag. The whole jumping mechanic is actually very Zen and I wish the game had a free play mode that would allow you just to jump to your heart's content without worrying about crashing into anything but it's a minor complaint.

Overall this is an incredibly well designed game with a lot of thought and attention to detail that's been put into it, even down to the expressions on the faces of the fish and the fact that the game automatically pauses if you switch apps or tasks or switch off the screen - you'd be surprised as how many desktop and mobile games don't do this or they require you to hit a pause button, which in this case could completely mess up your jump timing.

The anatomy of a Jumpy Fish - art by Dave Ward

The variety in the fish also must have required a lot of work, plus the game cycles through three different times of day (day, evening, and night), each of which has slight changes to the graphics to keep it fresh and interesting for the player, as well its own musical theme (that you can switch off if you don't like it but I've found all the music tracks to be wonderful selections that are well suited to the game).

The game was first quietly released in January this year before a more public release a few weeks later and since then it has gone through a few more updates that have incorporated changes - the difficulty curve was adjusted a few times, for example, and the music changed to pieces that were similar but different so those who had already been playing for a while were invigorated with new content and slightly different challenges when it came to managing the timing of the jumps.

Jumping in Jumpy Fish

The fish collection in Jumpy FishThe game is, unfortunately, in a settled state now so for early adopters who have maxed out everything - having unlocked all the fish so there's no need for coins, though you'll still "collect" them (you can't use them yet you can't not collect them) - there's not much motivation to keep playing, bar just for the fun of it or to see if you can beat your high score.

This is unfortunate because those of us who were in it from the beginning had a hell of a lot of fun adapting to the changes and challenges brought on by the difficulty tweaks but don't let this dissuade you if you've never played this game because if you're starting from scratch there's a lot to unlock and keep you busy, plus the collection of fish is amusing and endearing.

This is a near perfect game for its genre and it deserves far more attention than it has received. It's free and it's not a huge download size, plus there's no pressure to race to the end game and unlock all the fish (unless you're a reviewer). Go slowly and enjoy a lovingly crafted casual game with its whimsical approach to the very serious issue of saving fish from the dangers of pipes and sharks.

Jumpy Fish: Facebook, Google Play (Android)
Red Dawn Studios: Facebook
Dave Ward: Facebook (Art), Facebook (Personal), LinkedIn Rating


Tags: Games, South African Games

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