GAMES Puzzle
  • Operating System:
  • Version:
  • Updated:
    January 30, 2023
  • File Size:
  • Developer:
    PLR Worldwide Sales Limited



When people think of match-3 games, Candy Crush is probably the first one that comes to mind. However, Candy Crush hardly invented a new genre. Match-3 (or “match-three,” depending on which naming convention you prefer) has been with us since at least 1985. Still, we probably have to fast-forward to the first years of the internet to find the first genuinely acclaimed ones (particularly Bejeweled).

One game particularly stood out at a time when the mobile industry was just setting sail. I’m speaking, of course, of Fishdom. Released in 2008 for PC and consoles (and ported to mobile in 2015), Fishdom remains one of the most iconic and premium-looking match-3 games to date.

One of the first things that stuck out for me about this game was its approach to match-3 and the whole premise behind it. To wit, you don’t complete match-3 puzzles just for the sake of it. While this is not the only game to provide you with an underlying motivation to switch stuff around on a grid, it’s definitely one of the most successful at this.

The match-3 here is just an “excuse” to indulge yourself in some aquarium-building (or is it the other way around? A “puzzling” question, indeed!) As you decorate and maintain your tank, you lure other fishies into it without having to go hit a pet store or contact a “fishy” contraband pet dealer!

It’s challenging to find a match-3 game in which the puzzling integrates so well with other gameplay elements or a story, but Fishdom delivers a solid experience on all fronts. It also has a markedly defined character and identity! 

Speaking of character, the fishies in this game are nothing short of endearing! However, this comes at the expense of some degree of originality. At this juncture, it shouldn’t even be disputed how much this game’s character design borrows from the Finding Nemo film (released in 2003).

How to play

Now, hold your seahorses! If you think my intention here is to muddy the waters and accuse Playrix of plagiarism, it most definitely isn’t. That said, all of this may still explain why the game conceivably resonated with people more in the late 2000s, though younger folks who did not watch Nemo in its heyday might not connect the dots.

On another note, I should emphasize that this game was actually designed to be played on a bigger screen but, even more so, on the Nintendo DS! Once you compare the DS version with the mobile port, you’ll understand just how much of the experience was lost in the latter. 

I’m sure you’re old enough to remember how the NDS operated, but in case you’re not (or you suffered from a horrible brain injury), the handheld had a dual-screen layout, so one aspect of gameplay would show on the bottom screen (usually minimaps or menus)  while the main screen (the top one) showed you the “busier” action. 

So, the DS port of Fishdom would display the match-3 puzzles on the bottom screen and your aquarium on the upper one. Solving your puzzling puzzles while seeing your finned friend merrily swimming in the fancy tank you built for them is amazingly enthralling, and it saddens me to realize we may never see this kind of thing again.

This is not to demerit the mobile version, for it’s still fairly decent on its own. My main beef with it, though, is that it doesn’t really embody what Fishdom has been about since its inception, which is why it ends up being so terribly underwhelming by comparison.

Lastly, I must mention the biggest “stain on the mattress”: The pay-to-win! Sadly, Playrix got too greedy for its own good and messed up the difficulty on late-game levels so as to force you to purchase boosters and power-ups. This is no small deal by any means, but at least it could be fixed with some scripting. 

Fishdom is a powerhouse in the match-3 genre and definitely a candidate for one of the best of its kind. Its only real “Achilles heel” is the artificial and unfair difficulty spikes I just mentioned. Let’s just hope Playrix finds fairer ways to monetize the game without taking us for fools.

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