So, let's say you're relaxing on the beach with your little sister, and a mysterious bottle floats to shore. Inside is an SOS message from some strange boy stranded on an island! If you squint, you think you can just spot him, way across the shark-infested waters, hopeless and moping. Whatever shall you do? Well, if you're Rocket Girl, you fly your butt right over there and save him. If you're Contraption Girl, you build a raft out of seashells, twigs, and your protesting sister's hair. If you're Crazy Girl, you do a back somersault and proclaim yourself the arch-duchess of Luxembourg. But if you're Fishing Girl, well, you've got to fish your way to a solution.
Fishing Girl, the first game from developer Luna Drift, is the most tranquil, unhurried game about a life-or-death rescue operation you're ever likely to play. Your mouse controls the angling action. Just hold the mouse button to start your back swing, then release it to cast. Once your lure is in the water, hold the mouse button to reel it in. Between casts, you may change lures, once you've collected more than one type, in order to catch different sizes of fish. The floating buoys between you and the lost boy's island act as shops for incremental power-ups. Strike one with your lure for a chance to buy larger bait or a fishing pole with longer range.
The beginner's level is perfect for a casual fifteen minutes of laid back fun, while the expert level feels more arcade-y, bombarding you with hungry ocean dwellers hoping to snatch away your precious lures. There are two possible endings, each one with a creative surprise in store. Suffice to say, you can't rescue a stranded individual with mere fishing skills alone. You'll have to get either clever or violent.
Analysis: What a neat little game. Because it plays entirely by its own rules, every new detail feels like a discovery, with greater treasures always lurking a little deeper, or a little further out to sea. It manages to capture the peacefulness and melancholy of fishing without bending to realism, and the whole thing is built on an emotional foundation of devotion and perseverance. If you ever lose motivation, your little blobby friend/sister/thing-um-a-whoozit is right there offering love and encouragement.
Fishing Girl's visual prentation is lovely, composed of subtle color choices and flat character designs with strong silhouettes. As much as I love the nostalgic use of chunky pixels, as in The Majesty of Colors, to me Fishing Girl's art style is a more natural evolution of the simple artwork from the 8-bit Nintendo days. It preserves that level of abstraction you need to form a quick emotional bond with the characters, without imposing any artificial technical restrictions.
Certainly nothing has been sacrificed in outlining the main characters; look at how detailed their living situation is. They've built themselves an elaborate three-story home, and planted a vibrant-looking garden. It looks like there's a cozy beach house too, decorated with sprigs of some cattail-like plant with heart-shaped bulbs. I'll bet that would make a good guest house, once the stranded boy is saved. You get the sense that these passionate, humble pillow-people will make a nice life for themselves once you've relinquished control and closed down the browser window; that after all this effort, they'll really be okay. What a great feeling to take with you into the rest of your day.
Note: If you'd like to learn about the origins of this game, and see a dissection of its gameplay, look at this: Dan Cook's Lost Garden Blog. Thanks, Derek!