Upon first reading the name of this strange indie game from developer Nussoft, you will likely fall into the trap of coming to inaccurate first conclusions. If you’re at all like me, you might just fall into making the same assumption that anything called Ace of Seafood must be some sort of competitive chef simulator, or some strange spin-off of the usually terrible cooking or restaurant management game.
But no… In fact, Ace of Seafood is nothing of the sort. Instead, what you get with this weird little game is an action packed, laser blasting, hardcore underwater shooter. At the beginning of your first session, you’ll be given the choice of commanding one of three fully-armed sea creatures into chaotic battles of life or death against all the horrors of the deep, dark future-ocean. In these depths, you must begin your journey by choosing one of three backgrounds: the Sardines, the Salmon, or the Spiny Lobsters. On one hand, fish species allow complete freedom of movement in every direction, giving priority to dodging, strategic positioning, and flanking at the cost of some defense. On the other hand, crustaceans offer superior defense and abilities that lend to a cautious and protective style of play. Other species and play styles emerge as the game carries on and a skilled seafarer will quickly find that with each powerful weapon and ability comes a steep handicap.
So you make your initial decision and enter the choppy ocean waters. Immediately, you may wander in any direction you desire, the only restriction being your occasional need to feed. On your journeys, you will come in contact with dozens of other species, some passive and some extremely hostile. And when these myriad fishes do get violent, things get seriously difficult in no time.
In order to match the power of the many aggressive sea foods you’ll encounter, you’ll have to breed some strong species of your own, gathering new types as you go, each with different strengths and styles. As you explore the deep seas, you’ll discover dozens of reefs which serve as safety zones for you to heal up, regroup, and dig into breeding various fish, crabs, lobsters, and (strangely) war ships. The combat system is just the same as most airplane or submarine combat systems out there. You have full horizontal and vertical control, and the aiming system is all particle-based and frustratingly accurate. It’s important to come to this underwater world with some first person shooter skills in hand. Beyond simple accuracy, you can also improve your chances by commanding your accompanying school of fish to take different strategic positions, blocking incoming shots or attacking from different angles.
As you stretch out the seemingly endless edges of your minimap, you’ll notice that this world is gigantic. Playing as different sea critters allows you to access different areas of the ocean, and though exploration is really secondary to the combat experience the game seems to focus on, there’s nothing quite as exciting as swimming and swimming into the distance, never quite positive if you’ll be able to make it back. As a side note, the lovely music by artist Deku provides an amazing auditory backdrop as you delve ever deeper into the murky depths.
The only story elements in the game come during the loading screens, where you get cryptic messages about the end of humanity and the spirit of life being passed on to laser-shooting future fish. These poorly translated moments add another layer of hilariousness to the already ridiculous notion of laser fish fighting rocket crabs fighting military war ships.
And so Ace of Seafood goes. You’ll soon be speeding around the sea, hunting down new reefs with your posse of crustaceans, fish, and submarines tailing happily behind you; a fierce challenge for any monster sea creature that impedes your way. I found that an adaptive method of play worked best, using hard-shelled creatures to fight against attack-heavy opponents and speedier fish against slower, more deliberate enemies. Cleverly utilizing walls as a barrier to avoid the AI’s superior aim was also a winning strategy, alongside deploying decoys and using strong allies to bolster my chances as I attacked each new reef. And since each new reef offers a safe place to recalculate your attacks, I never felt overly frustrated or annoyed when my horde of sardines was decimated by a pack of angry tuna.
In general, I was immensely surprised by the level of depth Ace of Seafood offered, especially considering my initial impressions of the game based on the title. More specifically, the open world (sea) is an impressive display of how huge an indie game can be, despite technical and logistic limitations. The combat system is also surprisingly well-tuned, minus a few annoying peaks and valleys in enemy difficulty. The aiming system in highly precise and maneuvering through each combat session feels as natural as any other shooter of this type, with only an occasional bout of directional confusion when trying to swim in circles or quickly turn around. The graphics leave plenty to be desired, but all-in-all there is a lot here for the price of a small studio game.
So, Ace of Seafood is a delightful little oddity with quite a bit going for it. There are a few annoying quirks and some strange design choices, like the option to turn on “online features” that seem to do nothing at all. But if you’re looking for a solid few hours of fishy entertainment, Ace of Seafood is not a bad catch. To conclude, I’ll summarize my thoughts on Ace of Seafood with a comment from the developer: “So many dreams…and to think that playing as seafood would be the answer to all of them.”
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