Thursday, February 22

Review: Ace of Seafood [Nintendo Switch eShop]

To be clear, we haven't quite hit a year with the Switch and in that span of time I've played an absolutely ridiculous number of diverse indie games. You'd think at over 200 of them, and with a big chunk of them being shooters, that it would get tough to run into a game that defies all previous experience and expectations. A few minutes with Ace of Seafood showed, very quickly, that there's still ample room for "different". Whether or not it will be a title you'll want to experience for yourself will be a fair question though.

I'll begin by simply stating what may already be obvious, this game is freaking weird. You'll begin your conquest of the sea, one reef at a time, as one of five somewhat humble species of aquatic life. Choosing between 3 fish and 2 crustaceans you'll need to start out by very carefully targeting even lesser organisms like sponge or clams to begin collecting material you'll need to help you and your school of partners grow. Little by little you can then take on slightly bigger targets in the hope you'll defeat them, collect their genetic material, and then hopefully have enough to be able to breed those species for yourself. If you're patient and smart you'll be able to accumulate quite a formidable force, eventually even somehow including warships (turn off your brain, just enjoy the silliness).

The other essential piece of this mechanic is the acquisition of new reefs. The more reefs your control the bigger the pool of points you'll have for making your school more formidable. Early on this will just be a matter of exploration. A new reef will show up on your map, typically with an arrow trying to guide you on-screen, and you'll just need to swim to it in order to add it to your list. It won't be long until they'll be defended by a squad of rival fish, or on the more lethal end even a small fleet of war ships, so you'll need to always be sure to pay attention to what's swimming around in the area to give you an idea of what you may face to take it. Once you get rolling the dynamic works fairly well. You take a new reef, you kill fish to collect their genes and material, you'll breed and upgrade your school, lather, rinse, and repeat.

In terms of issues the main things you'll need to enjoy Ace of Seafood will be an open mind and outright patience. There's simply a lot going on at all times in the game whether it is trying to grasp the most effective ways to wage combat, working out effective combinations of creatures for your school, or simply in trying to understand everything going on in the interface. The game's tutorial tries to give you a solid foundation to work with but there's simply a great deal of trial and error flailing you'll need to do in order to understand some aspects of the game. Just as a for instance even though my school eventually even included a war ship my tendency was to directly control the Mackerel I had started with. Its mix of attacks and maneuverability simply allowed me to be more effective in controlling the combat, mostly leaving the damage to be done by my school. It should be noted that you'll gain experience with the fish you control, eventually unlocking another attack, so given some time you could uncover an ability in another species that could make them more viable for your direct use.

With all of its quirks, completely gonzo gameplay, and ability to defy easy (or possibly sensible) description Ace of Seafood is absolutely an acquired taste for the Switch. That said, as I came to terms with everything it was throwing at me on-screen by taking time to slowly set up a foundation to work with it grew on me. There's absolutely some fun to be had with it if you can embrace the insanity and silliness of it all, you just have to be open to its very non-traditional experience in order to get there.

Score: 6

  • The feeling of taking out a submarine, which you can then make use of, with a school of fish
  • A completely different kind of game experience
  • Each species has specific strengths and weaknesses you’ll need to understand to maximize your effectiveness, whether they’re an enemy or an ally

  • The initial learning curve
  • Interface can be extremely busy and chaotic
  • This is absolutely not a game for everyone

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