I unabashedly love Magikarp Jump. You feed a fish, you help it get big and strong, the fish jumps. You can unlock friends for your fish and you can compete against other fish jumps. That’s pretty much the whole game and its easily one of Nintendo’s best on mobile.
I know, really, David? A game about a jumping carp is the best Nintendo’s got? Surely you mean to say [insert other game title]. Nope, I kid you not internet human. The best Nintendo currently offers on a cellphone or tablet is game about getting a carp to jump pretty high.
Unlike many of the other Nintendo releases, Magikarp Jump doesn’t really try to be anything more than a hollow, quick mobile diversion. It’s difficult to be a casual player of Pokémon Go because its both resource and location centric. Super Mario Run makes great strides but the lions share of the game lies behind an expensive (but worthwhile) paywall. Fire Emblem Heroes doesn’t do much to disguise the fact that it’s a brazenly cash sucking enterprise.
Instead, like the eponymous, lowly, underestimated magikarp, Magikarp Jump succeeds by clearing a low bar with panache. Food is delivered automatically. The ability to train is granted regularly. And slow but steady progress yields new patterns of Magikarp’s to catch along with friends, enhancements, and ways to customize the pond that your carp lives in. Most of the game unfolds for you, for free.
To be fair, there is premium content and most of it isn’t really worth it. I’m happy to spend some money in a free game I like if I’m having a good time and I did so here too. But honestly, the game rewards you with so much premium currency you can get most of what you want without spending a dime. That’s one of its strongest elements. Yes, it’s a game whose main mode is grinding. If you spend the time, you’ll find fish jump victory.
Even more striking is that the game doesn’t ever actually seam to be trying that hard. There’s a few hilariously broken animations, characters in this small fish jumping obsessed town seem to have way too much time on their hands in order to care about fish jumping this much, and the game is hilariously underwritten. You can’t customize your character (though you can decorate the pond) and characters don’t really even try to get to know you. It’s one of the laziest experiences out there.
And its brilliant. It’s just simple, unintelligent fun with no remorse for itself. Yes, Fire Emblem Heroes is also shameless but it’s shamelessness is in how its designed to draw in revenue. Magikarp Jump is basically already the version of itself with no way to spend money in the app. It’s basically as free to play as a game can be. With a little dedication you too can have the jumpiest Magikarp in Jumpsburg with pretty minimal effort.
I know it may seem like a cynical take but I’ve spent more time helping a dumb fish jump than I have in any other Nintendo title available on my phone. It’s seriously great to find new fish scale patterns and emotionally gutting when something bad happens to your fish. Poor little Karpediem might get picked off by a bird or Karpomarx might get blown up and it hurts my soul when that happens to the point where I play the game as conservatively as possible. The random events don’t offer random rewards, playing it safe will always keep your fish safe so I do. I cant bear to watch another pun named fish get killed.
Do yourself a favor, download this game and help a fish jump. It’s a dumb game. But sometimes a dumb game is the best kind of game we can train ourselves to. A game that barely even demands you pay a minimum amount of attention to succeed. A game where a colorful fish jumps in a weird jumping contest against other fish.