Another week brings another Ratalaika Games release, and this time it’s Legend of the Skyfish, a puzzle adventure game strongly influenced by Zelda.
The basic premise of Legend of the Skyfish is an intriguing one. Greedy fishermen have awoken Skyfish, the evil Lord of the Seas, and to cut a long story short, the fish have now taken over, the townsfolk have been enslaved and Skyfish’s minions patrol the shores. See what happens when you over-fish, kids?!
You play as Little Red Hook. Her little brother is one of those enslaved, and it’s your job to free him. To aid you with your quest is the mythical Moonwhale, Warden of the Seas, and you also have the world’s best fishing rod at your disposal.
That fishing rod is the focal point of the entire game. It’s used for basically everything. It serves as your primary weapon against the fishy hordes, and your key to solving the game’s various puzzles. You’ll use it to reel in and clobber killer fish, flick switches, pull things onto buttons and propel Red onto new islands and platforms. If you’ve ever played Zelda, it’s kind of like the Hookshot from that series.
Legend of the Skyfish looks great, with its whimsical art-style. The marine theme is pulled off excellently and there’s a certain charm to it. The game sounds good too; the soundtrack full of rousing, if repetitive, music that really helps to sell the heroic adventure that Red is undertaking. All in all, the whole presentation gives off a clear Zelda vibe, but Legend of the Skyfish does enough to distinguish itself.
Like anything that Ratalaika releases, the achievements that come with the Xbox One version of the game are a piece of cake. But in something of a first, you’re going to have to play through the entire game to get them all. Anyone looking for a quick achievement fix needn’t worry though; this sky-fishing adventure is only a three or four hour affair.
So far, so good. But once you start playing, you’ll quickly realise that Legend of the Skyfish doesn’t really deliver in a few critical areas. One is the storytelling. That intriguing set-up of fish taking over the world I mentioned is never really built upon. In fact, pretty much all of the story is contained within two cut-scenes – one at the beginning and one at the end, after you defeat Skyfish himself.
The first two worlds are also disappointing. The whole experience is really pedestrian and more linear than a puzzle platformer ought to be. You’re pushed along one path, and you’ll only deviate off it occasionally to open a treasure chest (which contains upgrades for your equipment). The ‘puzzles’ themselves aren’t even really puzzles, with most amounting to just pulling a switch and running through the gate that it opened a few feet away.
Throughout the whole experience, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just playing the same stage over and over and over again. Legend of the Skyfish doesn’t do enough to distinguish between each level, and it’s probably because all you are doing every time is pulling switches and pressing buttons. The end goal of destroying a giant fish totem also never changes.
You can also say that the combat is far too limited, with the enemies varying in appearance but little else. And like the puzzles, they pose no challenge. Every single one lumbers slowly towards you and all you have to do is reel them in and give them a good whack. It may be fun the first few times, but it gets really old, really quickly. A new weapon would have gone a long way here. Perhaps it could have been hidden in a treasure chest. Or there could even have been some new enemy mechanics introduced.
Legend of the Skyfish isn’t completely irredeemable though. Enemies can be damaged by the environment in the same way you can. That means you can drag them into traps with your fishing rod and kill them that way. It’s a nice touch, and goes some way towards breaking up the monotony of reeling enemies toward you and whacking them a set number of times.
And if you manage to get there, the third world – Arid Seabed – is a lot better than those which go before it, although it’s important to mention that many of the problems of the first two worlds remain. Most notably, combat is still dull and levels are still too similar.
But for the first time this is where there is some urgency injected into the game. Timed switches, first seen in the second world, are commonplace and obstacles will chase you around walkways. Another great addition are those switches which will open and close different coloured gates, if only because it makes the puzzles a little more complex. In fact, it is here where you might just actually have to stop and think about what to do, perhaps backtracking in order to pull the same switch multiple times in order to progress. There are also times when you will need to deviate off the main path to activate the necessary switches or buttons. All in all, there is a lot more complexity and urgency and a lot less linearity here, and it makes for a solid third act.
Legend of the Skyfish does have a lot going for it: an intriguing story, a cool gimmick, a beautiful Zelda-like aesthetic, and easy achievements. Unfortunately, the execution is rather fishy. The game is far too easy, with puzzles that aren’t really puzzles and enemies that pose no threat. And the whole experience is far too pedestrian and linear for my liking.
Final verdict: Not great, cod do better (I’ll see myself out).