Playism are known for bringing unique indie games from Japanese developers to a worldwide audience. Two years ago, they teamed up with developer Nussoft to release NEO AQUARIUM – The King of Crustaceans – to Steam. The title effectively summed up the game perfectly. Players controlled one of a variety of crustacean and battled for dominance in the ocean in a seriously unique ocean shooter. Last year, Ace of Seafood upped the ante when it was released on Steam. This time, however, PS4 players are now finally getting in on the ridiculous action. How does Ace of Seafood differ from NEO AQUARIUM – The King of Crustaceans –? Instead of focusing on a specific type of sea creature, players are now free to control all manner of underwater life. Heck, there’s even some non-living controllable items to command throughout a playthrough.
As simple as the concept of “dominating all underwater life” might seem, the game initially comes across as completely incomprehensible – at least if this is your first experience with a Nussoft game. The tutorial explains controls but not in a way which really makes it clear as to what the whole purpose is. Concepts such as controlling reefs, breeding and setting up teams are basically left up to the player to discover on their own time. It certainly doesn’t help that the English writing in the game is of poor quality. As humorous as this may be, you’ll need to spend some time re-reading terse Engrish sentences to figure out what they’re trying to explain. With little to no expectation of what all is going on, most newcomers will likely die straight off the bat when their team comes up against any other creature while swimming along.
Gameplay might progress like this for a while, depending on how quickly you pick up on the mechanics. Death provides the best instruction as it reveals that the mechanics of choosing your shot type and team structure are of paramount importance. Failing to beat wimpy prawns or beefy barracuda forces one to mess around in convoluted menus and simply scrounge around for easy prey. After a bit, the concept of leveling up or breeding to increase your team size (up to six) become apparent. Then comes the realization of each creature having their own strengths and weaknesses which must be considered before taking on a battle. Simply leveling up a strong fish won’t be enough to stop everything in its tracks. For example, crabs have a hardy exterior everywhere except for their underside. Failing to grasp this simple weak point ensures an almost impossible battle.
Once the mechanics are cleared up, Ace of Seafood starts to become a hilariously simple good time. The fast-paced gameplay ensures that you’re regularly treated to silly looking battles. Seriously, it’s wonderfully goofy to watch fish suddenly open up their mouths and spew lasers through the sea. Locking onto targets, strafing and setting attack and defense patterns effectively makes this a lot like an Ace Combat game, except for the fact that it’s a bunch of fish going nuts on each other. Things grow all the stranger once you start to uncover creatures beyond fish to battle and take into your team. For example, how about getting a seal on your team? Or, heck, why not a battleship with an armored hull and deadly rockets? The entire game starts off strange and remains that way throughout.
Despite the extremely silly exterior, the game proves quite difficult thanks to challenging enemies swimming throughout the open underwater world. Most enemies don’t feature such easy to understand weak points. Each creature has its own behaviors, speeds and some may simply come along with friends. It’s possible to go from reef to reef in an attempt to conquer each one, but this quickly ramps up in difficulty. There ends up being a need to grind your team, as well as collect enough DNA to become every creature you’ve previously beaten. Without this freedom to curate a dynamic team, it’s much harder to defeat tough creatures.
Grinding around for simple XP is where things get a little droll. It can also be where fights spring up unexpectedly. Often, unless you’re coming into another fish’s territory, they’re totally calm. This can change in an instant if the player inadvertently fires off at something swimming nearby when trying to shoot at a starfish or plant life. A simple grind session can quickly end in death if the wrong fish happens by at that moment. Fortunately, lost XP isn’t gone for good. After respawning it’s just required to swim back to where the death occurred to collect the loot back up. A best practice is to always head into a safe reef whenever your team is low on health. This move both replenishes health for the entire team and saves the game as well.
Visually, Ace of Seafood could easily be mistaken for a PS3 game. There is nothing astonishing about the fidelity of the visuals. That’s not to say the game isn’t enjoyable to look at. Thanks to the incredibly weird concept, the graphics prove good enough to serve up lots of hilarious moments. It cannot be understated how funny it looks to see fish, lobsters, sharks and more shooting bright lasers at one another. Special moves are also great fun to discover. UI is pretty awful, but serviceable, at least. Finally, the music proves endearing with how it loops techno beats over everything. You might get tired of hearing the same few songs over and over again – but if you don’t, the soundtrack is available for download.
Ace of Seafood is a ridiculous game in a good way. It provides players with a simple directive — dominate the ocean — and leaves it up to their skill to make that a reality. Alongside how goofy this all looks in action, it also provides a surprisingly compelling bit of gameplay to master. Of course, much of the fun is in simply finding the next creature to gain control of. It also never stops ceasing to be one of the most amusing PS4 titles to date. While it might not be the most delicious gaming dish, Ace of Seafood is yummy in its own right.