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A stylized view of a fisherman sitting on a small boat on a pink sea, with a flash of lightning in the background, in Ridiculous Fishing EX Image: Vlambeer/Apple

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Ridiculous Fishing EX is a perfect arcade remix

Vlambeer’s iPhone classic is rejuvenated by a brilliant new daily challenge mode

Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing — formerly known as Radical Fishing — has already had one unlikely rebirth. The Dutch duo of arcade specialists was still in the process of turning their Flash game Radical Fishing into a fleshed-out version for iOS when they were gazumped by the launch of a hit clone on the App Store… and then another… and then another. One of them, Ninja Fishing, was a big hit. But Vlambeer persevered, turning the fight against clones in the mobile gaming Wild West into a cause célèbre for the indie developer community, and eventually released Ridiculous Fishing into instant-classic status in 2013.

Ten years later, Ridiculous Fishing needed another save. The game hadn’t been updated since 2017 and had compatibility issues with modern devices, but Vlambeer had disbanded in 2020. What to do? Enter Apple Arcade. Apple’s mobile gaming subscription service offered Vlambeer an opportunity to get the band — Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman, plus collaborators Zach Gage (SpellTower) and Greg Wohlwend (Threes!) — back together for one last job: reworking their mobile stalwart in time for its 10th anniversary.

The result, Ridiculous Fishing EX, belongs to that special class of remakes that play exactly as the original does in your memory; only when you compare them side by side do you realize how far advanced the new incarnation is. Wohlwend’s distinctively angular art has been completely redrawn in 3D without losing any of its chunky, irreverent style. The game’s silly world of bizarro marine life and heavily armed sport fishing has been fleshed out via the medium of an in-universe TikTok parody. And there’s an expanded new game plus mode. But best of all, there’s a new, competitive daily challenge mode — the Pro Fishing Tour — that deconstructs, rewires, and remixes the game in a way that’s endlessly refreshing, while underlining the brilliant simplicity at its core.

In Ridiculous Fishing, you fish, ridiculously. The game has a brief, elastic, see-saw gameplay loop that’s hard to put down. Cast your line into the water, tilting your phone to avoid the swarms of fish as it plunges down, sending your lure as deep as you can. When you hit a fish, run out of line, or reach the bottom, the lure begins to ascend — now the aim is to snag as many fish as possible on the way up. When your haul reaches the surface, the fish are cast high into the air, at which point you whip out your chosen firearm (a blunderbuss, perhaps, or twin Uzis) and blast them to pieces before they fall back into the sea. Spend your earnings to unlock upgrades (longer line, new guns, an invaluable chainsaw lure that can chew through fish on the way down, more fuel for said chainsaw, and so on). Then go again. Gradually, you progress to new locations and deeper waters, bringing in more fish with each haul.

A stylized hand holds up a rough wooden iPhone in front of a fishing scene, the screen showing several destinations with names like Stormy Scenes listed Image: Vlambeer/Apple
A portrait oriented screen shows a lure plunging down a narrow channel full of fish, all drawn in an angular style Image: Vlambeer/Apple

The Pro Fishing Tour introduces preset daily challenges, arranged into seasons, and increasing in length and (sometimes) difficulty throughout the course of each week. Every day there’s a different depth, and a rotating set of climate effects: Examples include strong currents that tug at your line, trash that boosts the speed of your hook when hit, a limited number of casts, no reload on your guns, and heavy fish that don’t fly high. There are also effects applied to certain fish: They might inflict darkness when touched, be worth more if hit with the chainsaw, or turn into time bombs that can take out other fish. Finally, there are daily quests that offer extra cash rewards for certain meta-goals.

Combined with two major rule changes — finite ammo for the guns, and finite fish in the sea — these modifiers transform Ridiculous Fishing EX. Sometimes they make the game harder, sometimes they make it more gratifying. But they always make you reconsider your tactics and re-engage with the design of a game that, on the surface, operates at a basic, lizard-brain level. The seasons also have Diablo energy in the way they periodically reset all your upgrades and ask you to earn them all from scratch. There’s a newly strategic angle to choosing your upgrades each time, as you respond to the new parameters set each day.

Oh, and all the cash rewards have been dramatically increased, so you can earn millions of dollars from a single cast, rather than just thousands. It’s meaningless, because all the upgrades cost more, too, but it’s a fun bit of overkill.

Ridiculous Fishing EX’s Pro Fishing Tour is designed around competitive leaderboards, but to be honest, I’ve never looked at them. It’s enough for me to log in and find a decade-old, classic piece of game design twisted into an exciting new shape, each and every day.

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