Sometimes you need a super hero that has it all, someone that flies, shoots lasers out of her eyes, and can take gunshots at point blank without batting an eye (although, mysteriously, must still duck if the gun in question is actually thrown at them). Sometimes you need the whole cape wearing, spandex wrapped package. And then there are times when all you need is a hero that is adept at catching goldfish and riding harpoons like a surfboard. Why you would need such a person I don't know, but when these times arrive, you need Fishbane, star of the platform adventure of the same name from Droqen.
As Fishbane your main task is to seek out the coveted golden harpoons that are tucked precariously away throughout the murky undersea terrain. Along the way you'll want to snatch up all the swimming goldfish you can while at the same time avoiding the other lethal denizens of the deep. Fortunately Fishbane is a fairly spry fellow and you can use the [arrow] keys to move about, or, if you prefer, you can also use [Z] or [C] to jump. Eventually in each stage you'll find your standard issue harpoon which is handy not only as a weapon, but also as your own personal moving platform. Throw and recall it with either [X] or [V].
You'll quickly learn that the obstacles you face are far more complex and tricky than merely a bunch of enemies and spikes waiting to cut short your adventure. Impassable force fields that can be deadly if switched on at the wrong time, seemingly unattainable platforms, and inopportune caging will put not just your reflexes to the test, but also the gray matter upstairs. Make no mistake, nabbing all of the golden harpoons won't be easy. It will take the fortitude and persistence of a hero, not necessarily the invincible flying kind, per se, but at the very least the other kind.
Analysis: I'm a sucker for a decently-built platform game, but what I really love is to play a game that manages to inject a subtle twist on a common mechanic to great effect, and this is exactly what we see at work here in Fishbane. The idea of using the harpoon as your own personal moving platform isn't exactly mind blowing, but it is executed so well that it elevates what is already a very solid platform game.
To be sure, all the staples are there. Clear retro graphics and smooth controls are present. There is a slightly sluggish feel that persists throughout the game, but this is far from being a deal breaker. But what really shines in Fishbane is the harpoon mechanic and level design that is often clever and sometimes brilliant. One of the great things about playing a game like this is being presented with a level that seems impossible at first, but with some effort and some failed attempts you finally get to watch it all come together seamlessly. And here in Fishbane, I kept getting that feeling over and over again.
Also of note is the way Fishbane treats spikes. You die should you land on them, which is totally expected, but you can walk through them unharmed, which is somewhat unusual for games of this type, and in the long run, this makes sense. Spikes, generally speaking, only hurt when you touch the pointy bits. Platforming convention would have us believe that touching any part of a spike at any speed from any direction equals instant death, but logic suggests otherwise. Fishbane's departure from convention not only seems to make a little more sense, but constantly tweaks the almost instinctual ingrained knowledge that spikes equal starting over.
Aside from feeling a little sluggish, Fishbane can be very difficult, both for the mind and the reflexes. Some of the level designs can be quite difficult to figure them out, and once you have figured them out, you still actually have to do it which can be a whole new and frustrating challenge to cope with. As a result, this is not exactly a game for anyone looking for an easy go of it.
But Fishbane ultimately dishes out a good balance between gaming brain and brawn on a foundation of solid platforming principles. The harpoon mechanic takes some getting used to, but once you have it down it really makes for what is a satisfyingly challenging game.