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Rating: 3.9/5 (115 votes)
Comments (30) | Views (4,828)

Kylefishbane.gifSometimes 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.

Fishbane2.gifTo 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.

Play Fishbane


adam gunderloy July 16, 2010 10:23 AM

i need help with the end of the second "quest".

Anonymous July 16, 2010 10:38 AM

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

Is it possible that the reviewer never played Prince of Persia? :o


Wow, stuck @ second screen. Then again, I haven't had my coffee yet either.


I guess I was warned, but if the solution to the fourth or fifth screen of the lava level is what I think it is, this is pretty much impossible. It's the one where you fall in from the top and land between a set of iron bars and a spike, with a red wall just past the spike, and a button over on the right.

You have to throw the harpoon to touch the button, right? And if you make your way to the red wall that's been turned off below you, you can't actually jump up from there, so you need to reclaim your harpoon, ride it across the spike pit, and somehow time your jumps exactly so that the peak takes you up over the red wall -- which seems to be an especial problem because your harpoon disappears the moment it hits the red wall. And this is near the beginning of the level.

Of course it's possible that I'm an idiot and am missing the solution.

There are some very very clever puzzles here. I felt great once I realized I could

cross a big gap by jumping on my harpoon.

And triple hooray for being able to walk through spikes. But the punishment factor seems too high -- your character moves pretty slow, and it takes a relatively long time for your harpoon to return to you, which can make even simple wall-climbing pretty tedious since it requires releasing the harpoon at the right height during the jump. Combine this with pixel-perfect jumping and deaths that take you back to the beginning of the screen (admittedly not that far), and you get a game where a fair amount of your time is spent redoing fairly humdrum stuff in order to set up That One Jump.

This reminded me a little of my limited experience with Braid, which also had crazy out-of-the-box solutions and precise jumps. But in Braid you don't have to replay the boring bits to get to the tricky bits. I wish this game either had solutions that were more tolerant of mildly imperfect jumping or more frequent save points; when your puzzles are designed to kill me over and over until I get the timing just right, one save point per screen isn't enough. It's a shame, because the puzzles really are very good so far.


@matt w:

You have to use your harpoon to press the button, then, when you get to the bottom of the screen by the spike pit, ride your harpoon across, but jump off before your harpoon hits the red wall.

tchakkazulu July 16, 2010 2:10 PM

This looks like a game that's going to be frustratingly fun. I can't *not* try to get all goldfish.


alex -- that's exactly what I was trying to do. Because of the pixel height of your jump, and of the wall, and the way

the harpoon vanishes the moment it hits the wall

there seems to be absolutely no margin for error.

No problem; a developer can make a game that requires pixel perfect jumping and split second timing if they want. But for me the repetitiveness and frustration of trying to master the jumps spoils the genuine enjoyment I get from solving the puzzles. I think the block-by-block layout is a problem here, because it means they can't gradually ramp up the jump difficulty by raising the blocks a pixel at a time.

Oh, and the screen I was complaining about was in the icy cliffs section, not the lava knolls. I had been wondering where all the lava was.


The harpoon is a nice twist, but I wish it were a little easier to use. It would potentially make the game a lot less frustrating if Fishbane could jump a bit higher, so that (s)he wouldn't need to be mid-jump when releasing the harpoon all the time.

I got through the first few zones before quitting. I just don't like knowing exactly what to do, but having difficulty doing it. Still, I enjoyed it while it was easy.

Anonymous July 16, 2010 3:23 PM

How on earth do you get past the last screen of the second quest???

Joachim July 16, 2010 3:46 PM

Ditto on feeling stupid about the last screen of the second quest.


Yeah, I'm quitting. Really fun game, but I got sick of having to do the same tasks (mundane or challenging) over and over again because there is no checkpoint between puzzles.


For the last screen on level 2:

send your harpoon through the two sets of bars so that it lines up with the shadow shown on the far wall. But, while the harpoon is being thrown, you have to jump on it, jump on to the platform above and back down onto the harpoon. then you can press the blue button. It took me forever to accomplish this.


Am I the only one whom the Fishbane sprite reminds of Bubs from Homestar Runner?

Just me then? Ok. XD

Person of Awesome July 16, 2010 9:54 PM

I love it! This is what a puzzle platformer should be like. Equal parts logic and timing, with one simple mechanic, some neat toys that revolve around it, and no nuisance gimmick stages. The platforming adds a new layer to everything, like playing two games at once. One is a platformer with twitchy reflex challenges with tricky jumps, the other with logical puzzle that give your brain a workout. And then you platform on the puzzles. And work out the puzzles according to the platforming. Definitely gets my 5 shrooms!


For those who are having trouble early on, check this out:

For the critics: you should probably figure out the first level (after the tutorial) before writing a 300 word comment full of mistaken assumptions about how the game works. Just saying!

Buttons July 17, 2010 3:25 PM

Phenomenal. I agree with the Braid comparison, and I'd go one further: these are the best platform puzzles in a free flash game, period. Hard, yes, but brilliant.


Not just you, joye. My first thought was, "Hey, it's Bubs Concession Stand, if he were a Big Daddy".


I agree with Matt. This game is way too frustrating. It's not because it's hard, I loved within a deep forest and finished it completely, it's that you have to get everything exactly perfect to the split second all the time for even the most basic tasks like riding on the harpoon. Games like Money Seize also required precise timing but in my opinion this is even more picky. I've finished 4 quests so far. This game really intrigues me but I'm kind of put off by how unfriendly and unforgiving it is.


May he should allow an easy medium and hard mode.


This game is easy, and too short. I finished it in like 2 minutes.


If you're having trouble riding the harpoon, here's an easy way.

Instead of firing the harpoon and then trying to jump on it, you should fire the harpoon midjump going UP and land on it the same jump. This made it tons easier for me.

ViciousChicken July 18, 2010 11:38 AM

Dylan: Are you sure you finished? The game doesn't end after the first golden spear. I find it hard to believe that anyone could find the last few levels "easy".

I just finished

Scary Places, the 11th level

, but apparently I'm missing 5 goldfish. I thought I got everything along the way, but I guess I missed some somewhere... Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to tell where, and I dread the thought of playing through all the earlier levels again... Although I suppose they'd seem much easier now. Some of the stuff towards the end was ridiculous, on par with Matt Thorson's games.

Anonymous July 18, 2010 12:19 PM

the last five goldfish are related to the secret of the game there'll be a hint if you watch to the end of the credits.

jim le fevre July 18, 2010 2:54 PM

hard hard hard

nice nice nice

ViciousChicken July 18, 2010 6:47 PM

Thanks, JIGuest! All finished now :)

tchakkazulu July 19, 2010 8:35 AM

Finished it. Finally. Wow. That was one tough, but fun ride.


Josh, thanks for the point -- that was really helpful. I need to see if I can get any further with this.

On the other hand, null0, pah. Instead of attacking critics who write about what we don't like about the game without finishing the second level (which was, you know, the problem), maybe you should think about why this really extremely clever game only has 25 comments. Maybe it's because people don't want to do all three of:

1. Figure out a conceptually difficult solution
2. Master the timing of that solution
3. Repeat an entire screen every time they fall down on either 1 or 2

(and even if the screen I was complaining about on Frozen Cliffs wasn't like this, the puzzle at the end of the first lava screen was). The first two parts are part of the gameplay, but the third isn't. Going full-on Braid is probably impossible for a flash game, but VVVVVV, for instance, did a good job of making the save points very frequent. (Another minor complaint: I can't close the window and keep my progress within the level.)

On the other hand, this does do an excellent job of constructing ingenious puzzles using a very simple mechanism. Big kudos for that.


@matt w - Well said.

Anonymous July 19, 2010 5:12 PM

Just can't get the harpoon-riding mechanic, and not really motivated to keep trying.


Keith -- thanks. After playing Death Beach I'm a little more annoyed with being unable to save my progress within a level, especially since that seems like it'd be pretty easy to implement. The last screen is deliciously evil but it is hard. OTOH I'm still playing.

JIGuest -- for all the complaining I've done, I think it was worth it for me. The puzzles are pretty brilliant. (I think CasualDweeb's suggestion of an easy mode might be a good one; all you'd really have to do is increase jump height by a pixel or two, and maybe change the sprite so it shows how high your harpoon release will be.)


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