The Game: You are an unknown species of brightly-colored deep-sea fangly fish who appears to subsist on cherries and has range weapons, radar and a fuel gauge. (I did mention that this was an unknown species, didn’t I?) Smaller critters emerge from a handful of indestructible “spawn points” on the screen, represented by stuff like a star or a floating eyeball, and you must shoot these critters. A direct hit briefly turns the critters into cherries, which float downward until your fish eats them (and, in so doing, replenishes his fuel), or they revert back to being critters. Un-cherry-fied critters can kill your fish, as can physical contact with their spawning points or running out of fuel. (Movement costs fuel, as does firing your fish’s weapon.) You advance by turning every critter in the screen into cherries and eating them. If you lose all of your fish, that’s the end of the game. (Sun Electronics, 1981)
Memories: All right then. For those of you who think that Namco’s deliriously strange and yet addictive 2004 PS2 game Katamari Damacy is weird, try Funky Fish out for size. I mean, seriously. What in the world inspired this game? It’s like someone’s head was just swimming with ideas for cross-breeding Defender with Pac-Man.
Not that Funky Fish isn’t fun. It actually is, and it’s not an overpoweringly fast-moving game either. And even if you never succumbed to the urge to catch some Funky Fish in the arcade, the game and its makers didn’t go entirely without notice: a version of Funky Fish was programmed for the Atari 2600 but wasn’t released (it has since been rediscovered and made available in cartridge form at AtariAge.com). A version of Funky Fish was also promised for the Emerson Arcadia 2001 console (as seen in that machine’s game catalog). And Atari itself apparently took notice of Sun Electronics (not the same outfit that makes high-end workstations), licensing Kangaroo from them the following year.
Two decades before Katamari, Funky Fish is solid proof that weird gets noticed in the video game world.