Overall Score 76%
Noms the Fish
Something for the little ones this week with a very casual offering that is probably going to be appropriate for anyone who has developed the dexterity and hand/eye co-ordination to operate a mouse. As a rough guideline, Iím thinking about 2 to 3 years up, but the content and flow of the game will really appeal to young kids of nearly any age.
Itís a well presented and endearing offering that plays on the toddlerís insatiable desire for repetition. The player controls a fish called Noms. At the start of the game, Noms is tiny and needs to devour many even tinier fish in order to progress to the next level. This task is hampered by the numerous bigger fish in the sea that are understandably aspiring to the same goal. In each level there are a few kinds of edible small fish, and one larger dangerous type of fish. Levels are passed once the bar at the top of the screen is filled to 100% which is simple enough to do Ė just keep gobbling and donít get gobbled. As Noms grows, so do his nutritional requirements. In order to get all the way to level 20, heíll need to keep eating larger and larger fish.
Controls are straightforward enough. There is a cursor on screen (which can be a little hard to discern sometimes) that the user moves around with the mouse. When the left mouse button is held down, Noms will swim towards the cursor. Simply coming into contact with other fish is enough to eat Ė or be eaten. There are no horrifying animations of fish being mauled and dismembered; the eaten fish simply disappears accompanied by a chomping sound. Powerups can occasionally appear in air bubbles. They will add to Noms life, allow him to eat larger fish for a short period of time, or double his score momentarily.
Meta-game content comes in the form of aquarium collections that can be stocked with fish and ornaments. As the player completes a level, they are able to keep some fish from the level in these aquariums, and later these can be sold off to buy new tanks, decorations or plants. It rewards continued play with a constant steam of new content, and is a nice way to tie the game up. There are a dozen or so achievements to unlock as well as three difficulty levels, which will ensure a reasonable challenge for most young players.
The game looks very nice, the graphics are distinctly cartoony in style, and the colours used give a really nice underwater feel. The sound effects are muffled and distorted which also adds to the feeling of being underwater. There are a lot of backdrops (each of the 20 levels has its own) and all seem to be hand drawn.
Although Noms never actually grows in size relative to the screen, the illusion of growth is apparent from level to level. Fish that would eat Noms in level 7 are now on the menu at level 8, and new larger predators are after him. Itís a clever concept that allows the developers to reuse artwork, yet still maintain the progression between levels. There is also a really good variety of fish, and most actually resemble their real life counterparts in appearance fairly closely.
One thing that really irked me was the constant need to hold the left mouse button down to move. A toggle would have been just as efficient, and put much less strain on the mouse hand. Some of the later levels feel like they go on a bit too long. Seriously disappointing was the intense build-up and anticipation of the final level to be rewarded with nothing more than Ė just another level.
The repetitious nature and relative simplicity of the core gameplay will turn most mature gamers away, but the game is squarely aimed at very young players in any case. And for that target demographic, the game offers plenty of fun play at a very reasonable price.
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