I confess: The Wii has been an interest of mine ever since it came out. It was doing things that have never really been done before. Plus, it has a degree of accessibility that has never been seen before; it is a console that can behave like a traditional console (especially when one obtains a game through the Wii Virtual Console) and can act like a PC due to the motions of the Wii-mote. After all these years, those were the reasons my sister and I finally picked up a Wii. After about a week of proud ownership, a little WiiWare game caught my eye on the Wii Shop Channel. That game was Penguins & Friends: Hey! That’s my Fish! Is it worth using blocks on your Wii?
First, let’s start with the plot, or lack thereof. Penguins & Friends has no plot whatsoever. It’s just about a bunch of penguin friends getting together and playing a game. No, this is not a game of “Red Rover” (maybe it would be “Ice Rover?”). This is a game of gathering all the fish possible. That’s it. No overbearing plot, no crazy character motivation and no weird item obtainment required for success.
Anyway, the game takes place on various boards of different sizes (small, medium and large). Furthermore, there are about 15 boards with five boards of each size. It is important to note that the maps’ spaces are set up as hexagons. Also, each and every time you play, the board you are using gets randomly set up with blocks of fish ranging from 1 to 3. The size of the board influences how many penguins you’ll have in your control. Movement is similar to chess with you using the Wii-mote as a mouse; each penguin moves like a rook and can move the entire length of the board (unless blocked, of course). As the penguins travel across the board, the ice block sinks into the water — never to be seen again. (Until the next game, at least.) This allows for some pretty interesting strategies as you can easily (and other times not so easily) block your opponent. This means you’ve got to be certain with each move you make because there is no “undo button.”
There are two game modes that work rather similarly. The first mode is mission mode, and is has you (and only you) going through five different stages as you attempt to be the master catcher of the fish. The best part is that you can restart a stage as many times as possible if you fail. The other game mode is free mode. This is the mode you can play by yourself on any map against up to three computer-controlled opponents. Or you can gather some friends together (or a sibling) and play against each other. The best part is that only ONE Wii-mote is needed to play. The game is turn-based, so just pass it back and forth from one player to the next.
The game is rather decent to look at. It really feels like something frozen in the artic. This cool-themed game is just perfect for mellowing out. Each of the six controllable penguins looks unique, though in all the insanity, it can be hard to figure out which penguin is which. As nice as it is to look at, there is one little chink: There are penguins watching the other penguins duking it out. They just sit there doing nothing. They don’t flap their wings, jump up and down, or even dive into the water. It feels like I’ve stumbled on the penguins of the corn — or in this case, “penguins of the ice.” It doesn’t feel right to me or my sister. It is a shame that those little details are not present.
Audio wise, everything is decent. Music is light as a feather. As such, it is light and bouncy. Unfortunately, it is rather forgettable. Plus, there is not much in terms of sound effects. However, one does hear the penguins “chirp” whenever you click one of them. The downside is that they sound the same. There is nothing to distinguish them. The good news is that the audio gets the job done.
Overall, Penguin & Friends: Hey! That’s my Fish! is a really decent game. It is a decent turn-based strategy game with a very specific audience in mind. It is for the novice and folks who are new to the strategy genre. With pleasant visuals and decent sound effects, it is one of the most accessible strategy games that will enable gamers to grow with the game and, eventually, move on to more complex games. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it does what it sets out to do rather well. That is not a bad value for 800 Wii Points.
If you’re novice gamer, like penguins and are new to the genre, feel free to pick it up. If you have a kid who wants to get into the strategy genre, Penguin & Friends: Hey! That’s my Fish! is probably a good purchase for you and your family. Heck, if you’re just looking for a decent multiplayer game that isn’t Wii Sports, this is a decent purchase. If I had bought this game for myself, I would have been cursing myself because it isn’t my cup of tea. It’s just a tad too simple for my tastes, and it lacks a bit of polish. However, because I picked up this game for my sister, I’m pretty happy with it. And I believe she is, too. Due to the experience with this game, I am starting to imagine all sorts of ways developers can re-imagine console strategy games. How will this genre grow on the Wii? I am rather excited to find out how it will and how developers will make a difficult genre more accessible to gamers of all calibers.