June 19, 2008 by Lisa Haasbroek
The best part about a simulated fish tank is that you never need to clean it! Those huge tanks look so beautiful, but in reality they are a lot of hard work to maintain. Fishdom is a new match-three game that has players fixing up exotic aquariums and raising all manner of tropical fish - all without needing a scoop and water filter.
The basic mechanics of Fishdom are like many other match three games in the genre Create matches of three or more in a row by clicking on adjacent pieces to swap them around, and make matches over the golden tiles to collect them. The level is over when all of the gold tiles are earned. Some tiles are silver, and these squares must be matched over twice to clear. A locked tile, indicated by a chain across it, can only be freed by matching it with other available tiles. Some tiles are even double locked, so you'll need to match them twice to break the chains.
The game is timed, as shown by the bar on your right, so you must clear the board before the clock runs out. If you want to pause your game, click on the eye in the top left, and you can watch the underwater scene without losing any clock time.
You can earn a variety of explosive power ups when five or more tiles are matched simultaneously. Ignite an explosive by double clicking on it or swapping it with any other tile. Firecrackers destroy everything within a 1 tile radius, and appear as a result of 6 or more matching, falling tiles. Depth bombs are earned by matching six tiles, and knock out everything in a two tile radius, while dynamite charges can clear out everything in a three tile radius. The most powerful power up is the lightening bonus, which is earned by using 7 explosives on a game level. Swap it with any other tile, and it will clear all instances of that tile on the board!
After each level, you'll be granted a cash reward. Aside from earning cash for collecting tiles, you'll also get a time bonus based on how quickly you completed the level, and a score bonus based on the number of matches were made.
Once you've earned some cash, it's time to shop! Here's where you can get creative and design your own personal aquariums, starting with your first tank in a “Pirate's Treasure” theme. The fish tab lets you select from an assortment of aquatic creatures, including exotic fish and seahorses, while the beauty tab displays a list of decorative items like plants, seashells, and sculptures. The comfort tab has items to get your fish cosy, like water filters, heaters, and lights. There's nearly 100 different items to choose from as you advance.
Not impressed by what you bought? Don't worry, you can sell it again by dragging it to the recycle bin. You won't get a full refund, but you will get a nice portion of your money back to spend on other items. You can also click and drag things around on the screen to rearrange them, though this has little impact on your progress.
In the top right corner, you'll see three meter gauges measuring the progress of your tank. Filling up all three gauges for fish, beauty, and comfort will earn you a bronze trophy. You'll need the bronze trophy to unlock a new tank, but you can continue to add to your original tank until you've earned silver and gold trophies. All together, there are three uniquely themed tanks to complete, including “Coral Reef” and “Lost Atlantis.” Aside from being a fun addition, you also receive a cash bonus at the end of each level for every cup you've earned in the aquariums. If you want, you have the option of using any of your tanks as a screen saver, just for fun.
Like Cradle of Rome and Cradle of Persia, Fishdom offers players a fusion of match-three and a light building simulation. In this case, we're raising fish instead of building villages, but the core idea is the same. The graphics are cute and standard, and the music really sets up a relaxing atmosphere. The levels are challenging and complex once you get past the first dozen boards, but most are not too frantic or overly difficult.
Although decorating the tanks is entertaining and a lot of fun, Fishdom doesn't offer anything substantially more than Fish Tycoon in regards to fish rearing. It's entertaining for a few hours, but lacks enough interaction to keep players occupied for long periods.
Still, Fishdom is well-implemented and easy to play. While it won't give you the same level of challenge (and combo rewards) as Bejeweled, it's a cute tile matching game for non-competitive casual gamers who want a title to play in short spurts. If you're looking for a screen saver and enjoy decorating tanks for simulated fish, then it's even better.
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