App Army Assemble: Fisherman – Should you dip your toe into this solitaire-inspired roguelike?

Fisherman is the latest endeavour from one-man indie development team Ciro Manna. We took a look at his previous game, Revolt as part of our series of App Army features last year and now he’s returned with another title. So, we decided to hand Fisherman over to our group of mobile gaming aficionados to see what they made of his newest effort.

Here’s what they said:

Dries Pretorius

Ciro Manna is a one-man indie game developer, and he now has my attention, simply because of how much better Fisherman is than Revolt, his previous game. The art is excellent, monsters are creatively drawn and there is enough animation in the waves and the representation of your ship to make the game feel alive.
While it pales a little next to the bursting Krumit’s Tale, it is unfair to compare one-man projects to studio productions on labour-intensive elements. As Dream Quest and Michael Brough’s games have shown us, you can go incredibly deep without fancy production value. You just need gameplay mechanics that force you to balance Tactical and Strategic decision making.

There is such a wealth of games in the genre of Fisherman’s Solitaire style balancing act, Card Crawl is one such. An example of what makes Card Crawl brilliant is a power card which allows you to swap your health with that of a monster on the board, this gives you the strategic opportunity to entertain extremely tall odds, selling off gear you need to survive, while sustaining a terrible injury, only to turn on the blood magic at the last second.
App Army Assemble: Revolt – Is this 1984 inspired turn-based roguelike worth keeping an eye on?
There are builds that allow you to exploit various strategies, balanced to give each a fair shot at hitting really high scores. This element creates strategic depth, and that is what makes a game great. As in Revolt, there are variants of power in attack cards, but function cards like telescopes, lifebuoys and other tools serve no function other than the number of tokens they generate when sold, compare this to the depth in Krumit’s Tale or Card Crawl where you constantly have to make decisions between the practical uses of items, and their sale value.

Eventually, you are playing rounds over and over, in the same strategic style, grinding to elevate the numerical power of your cards in order to balance the higher numerical demands of each Ocean Deck.
I am very excited that Ciro Manna has improved so much over the course of a project, as a one-man production Fisherman is impressive and entertaining enough with great animations, music and solid gameplay. It still falls behind its peers in terms of depth and design.

Adam Rowe

Fisherman is the most fun I’ve had with an iPhone game since Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale. I have always loved card games and this one hits just the right spot for a tactical challenge, fun upgrades, and short individual playtime. I have found myself going to the game any time I have five minutes to spare this weekend and that speaks volumes for me.

The game could be explained a little better. For example, I wasn’t aware that you could move cards onto emptied spots until I did it by accident. That said I have really enjoyed figuring the game out and finding better strategies for clearing the board while also acquiring the most fish (the game currency). Each time I try a new more difficult sea (level) I find it initially crushingly difficult.

But, with some grinding of previous levels your character levels up, giving your ship more HP, and you are able to afford better cards to put into your deck. Each time I get a new card I immediately want to take another run and see how to works out! Fisherman takes a little bit of work to figure out, but I highly recommend it to anyone who likes solitaire card games like the Meteorfall games, Solitairica, or Card Crawl.

Oksana Ryan

As I’ve said before I’m not a fan of card games but I approached it with an open mind. The instructions for gameplay were far too lengthy, though I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Cards turn over revealing enemies, weather trends, potions, weapons and fish. Collect fish to buy new cards.

The gameplay itself was actually enjoyable for the first couple of levels. Then it all went downhill. I had bought a weapons card (all I could afford) which never appeared, and after using my weapons cards as they were dealt, I ended up with a board full of enemies adding up to 44 points with only 9 points to kill them. There was no way I’d progress. I tried the level several times after and had similar results. I gave up.

It’s a shame because it could have been the card game that converted me. Apart from the music, which I turned off, the gameplay and graphics were good and easy to follow. A few tweaks could easily put things right because there’s no point having a game that finishes at level 3.

Jt Hernandez

A simple solitaire card game where you need to guide a ship through random events controlled by the cards you draw. Cards can turn up to be fish to help you upgrade your deck, sea monsters, weapons to help you face those monsters, potentially dangerous events, or other tokens to help you bypass those events.

The gameplay is fast and entertaining. Graphic design is nice. The good and bad of this game is that the difficulty of each round is extremely random. One round, you’ll find yourself surrounded by 9 monsters with no weapon in sight, while the next you’ll be so swamped in weapons that you’ll need to decide which ones to sell.

Mark Abukoff

I like the look of the game and really like the solitaire variant… the first two levels are satisfying but easy enough to really enjoy it. Then you get to level three which as far as I can tell is impossible on the first playthrough. That’s really my only criticism, but it’s a big one. Because it made me want to put the game down. But overall I enjoyed it enough to try to upgrade my cards (through grinding) a bit before I give it up. The tutorial is bare-bones but really all that I needed.

Overall I’d say this has the potential to be a really good game, but the difficulty needs to be ramped up a bit more gradually. That’s something that an update can handle, making it a much better game. If you can handle that aspect and you enjoy solitaire/deck games, I’d recommend this.

Paul Manchester

After my less than favourable review of Revolt, I was interested to check out this devs newest title. First impressions were good with nicely drawn artwork and what looked to be a simple deck-building card puzzler. Then came the instructions…. its a work of genius to make simple instructions that complicated. I think this will instantly put many people off with its non-interactive read through. I would rather the game introduced the rules by way of some very basic levels and guided initial upgrades.

However, if you manage to make it through to the actual game it starts surprisingly well with an addictive loop. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long, as sound as the core mechanics are, the difficulty curve is ridiculous after level 2 and the upgrades are simply too expensive. I’m afraid I just can’t be bothered to grind my way through to progress further. Good effort let down by bonkers tutorial and way off difficultly balancing.

Ed Davis

The idea of the game is great. You play a range of cards to either defeat monsters, sail or sell for money/fish. At first, there doesn’t seem to be any method to when you play cards but the more you play, the more it feels like there should be some sort of logic to when to play a particular card. I think most of it comes down to luck though.

The first couple of levels are pretty straight forward but level 3 ramps it up massively. Within 3 moves, more than half the cards were filled with high health monsters and I only had a few simple weapons to defeat them. For the game to be more appealing, the challenge difficulty needs to be gradually introduced rather than what feels impossible at only level 3.

Torbjörn Kämblad

Playing on an iPhone 12 Pro, and I will keep on playing. This is the kind of game I really enjoy. A card battler without too much help in the ways of a tutorial, and quite unfair randomisation of cards and obstacles. To be frank I have played for 20 hours, and have yet to beat the third location. Frustrating? Nope, as I feel hell-bent on progressing, and just have to take another stab at it. The presentation is crisp albeit a bit plain.

To get anywhere there is a lot of grinding of the earlier already beat locations, as this gives you fish that can be exchanged for new cards. My main criticism is that the descriptions of the new cards are lacklustre, but hey they might help when I retry for the tenth time in a row. At least I hope so. Recommended to anyone into solitaire games

Chad Jones

I have to say overall I really enjoyed playing this game. At first, look its beautifully illustrated but also reminds me of an old flash game. As I got started the tutorial is brief and doesn’t hold your hand, leaving you with enough information to get you going but leaving you learning more on your own as you play along. I have to say its the first game in a long time, where I played for over an hour (on my phone) something I hardly ever do.

It’s chill enough to relax to and not feel stressed playing but challenging enough to keep you going. And as I was poking around in the menu I found out you can buy different cards (which I didn’t know existed, nor was it mentioned) There seems to be a lot of content and this is definitely a game I will be coming back to time and time again.

Jim Linford

This game is like solitaire mixed with a turn-based RPG. You have a deck of stacked cards in a 3 by 3 pattern. You have to turn them over and clear out the deck without losing all your health. You have enemies with health points, weapons with attack points, fish which you pick up to allow you to buy more cards for your deck (it’s called Fisherman after all). Hazard/chance cards and items you can convert to coins to allow you to get rid of the hazard/chance cards, Plus three action slots.

In the in-game world, you have different areas with enemies with more health points which can be brutal if your deck isn’t upgraded. With hazard cards, you have a set number of coins to get rid of them or you take a chance by using a compass to sail depending on the direction you could lose health, regain health or coins or fish. So there is a risk-reward to it. You also get XP after a game which will increase your health. It can be a bit gritty as I’m trying to get enough fish (in-game currency to upgrade the decks). Also, I think it can be a bit random with some level having too many enemies and not enough weapons to get rid of them.

Overall, I really like the quick play aspect of the game. Plus the way you have different levels and a way to upgrade. I think the high cost of items and enemy strengths meaning you have to grind to increase health and items keeps the game artificially long for my mind at least.

What is the App Army?

The App Army is Pocket Gamer’s lovely community of mobile game experts. As often as possible, we ask them for their thoughts on the latest games and share them with you.

To join, simply head over to either our Discord Channel or Facebook Group and request access by answering the three questions. We’ll then get you in right away.

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