Hook, Line and Sinker: A Retrospective on Playdate's First Big Fishing Game

Hook, Line and Sinker: A Retrospective on Playdate's First Big Fishing Game

October 31, 2023

Pixel-art animation of a flapping bird

This bird brought a message in a bottle!

Hello all, I’m ToadleyUnderControl, but I go by other forms of “Toad” across the internet! I’m the creator of Reel-istic Fishing, a chill/relaxing fishing game for the Playdate!

GIF of Reel-istic Fishing for Playdate
GIF of Reel-istic Fishing for Playdate

The Prophe-sea

With the arrival of Reel-istic Fishing, the curse that has gripped the Playdate since it was first announced has been broken.

There had not been a big fishing game until its release, which is wild to me! The crank perfectly fits the genre, so you’d think everyone would have made a fishing game by now. That happens to be exactly the issue, though - everyone thought that everyone was going to be making a fishing game, so not many tried.

“Everybody, as soon as they hold it, as soon as they see it, they’re immediately inspired to make something that maybe no one else had thought about. Except for fishing. Everybody comes up with fishing on their own, like they’re a, they’re a genius.”

—Mark Lentz of Chuhai Labs

Coral-ing Deadlines

I started developing Reel-istic in January of this year, and have been working nearly daily on it up until release. There have been a couple burnout periods, and even a game jam, but other than that I think I stayed fairly cod-sistent!

Some early footage of the game taken on the 22nd of February 2023.

Some early footage of the game taken on the 22nd of February 2023.

Some early footage of the game taken on the 22nd of February 2023.

Some early footage of the game taken on the 22nd of February 2023.

The game was actually intended to be complete in February, and was just meant to be a reel-y simple fishing game. But, as time went on, I added more and more things, and scope quickly got out of hand! I was also receiving lots of creative ideas and suggestions from the community, so I tried my absolute hardest to implement all the ones I could! Development seemed to never end, but I didn’t really mind because I enjoyed development so much.

Late July, I finally set a concrete deadline for myself: August 7th would be the date of the Itch.io release. I picked this day because it’s World Sea Serpent Day, and I felt like that was pretty fitting for the game! I ended up making the deadline, but I was definitely still adding in new things just days before release (such as the frog, which was a suggestion from Andrew Gant of Tiny Yellow Machine).

GIF of Reel-istic Fishing for Playdate

Footage of 1000 frogs having a party, taken just one day before the Itch.io release. This is not on-device footage. I think the Playdate would explode trying to wrangle 1000 amphibious critters haha

Ridiculous Beginnings

So how did this all begin then? Why did I start?

I got my Playdate last December, and I was debating making a game for it. I didn’t have much experience with game dev, with the most advanced thing I’ve made being a text-based roguelike game.

A text-based plinko roguelike I started a few years ago but never finished!

A text-based plinko roguelike I started a few years ago but never finished!

I’d just recently tried revisiting Ridiculous Fishing (an incredibly fun mobile game released in 2013 by Vlambeer). Unfortunately, I learned that Ridiculous Fishing had stopped receiving updates 6 years ago. After 6 years of no updates, it was pretty outdated; UIs were messed up, everything was tiny on screen, it was tedious to play! (It’s worth mentioning that Ridiculous Fishing EX was released a couple of months ago on Apple Arcade, and you should go play it!!)

I was sad to see the game in this state, but it gave me an idea! I wanted to create my own take on the game, to take what I loved about Ridiculous, but add in some of my own elements, and elements I loved from other games. This is when Reel-istic Fishing was born (Reel-istic Fishing was actually meant to be a temporary title, but I uh… forgot to change it before it was too late).


My inspirations came from a lot of different games I love. I play a lot of Stardew Valley, and one thing I always enjoyed about that game is that time moves forward, regardless of what you do. To me, that makes the world feel alive and meaningful. I wanted to recreate that feeling in Reel-istic, to make it feel like things are always happening, that the world is always turning.

I also really enjoy when there are rare versions of animals/creatures in games: Shiny Pokémon, aberrations in Dredge, golden critters in Terraria. Seeing a super rare creature pop up at random while playing is always super exciting to me, it gives me a story to share with my friends! In Reel-istic, every single fish in the game has a small chance to become a sort of “mutated” version of itself. It’s a lot more work for me to add, but I think it’s worth it for that rush of excitement you get seeing a super rare fish appear!

My small collection of golden critters (Terraria)

My small collection of golden critters (Terraria)

Possibly the biggest inspiration though has been the Playdate community. In Reel-istic there’s an option to convert all the fish into fruits/veggies (nicknamed “VeggieVision”!), which was an idea brought up to me by Brian Dorsey, who suggested that a vegetarian mode would be nice for those who may not be comfortable catching fish. This is just one example of the super cool community ideas that were brought into the game! The Playdate community is truly the best, and had it not been such an accepting and fun place to be a part of, I’m not sure Reel-istic would have come nearly as far.

Playing with VeggieVision turned on

Playing with VeggieVision turned on

My Favorite Fishing Minigames

I always love fishing in games, there’s something super relaxing about it. I’ll list off a couple of my favorites, and give some reasoning for them!

  • Stardew Valley: Fairly simple fishing minigame at its core, but hunting down fish during certain times/seasons/weathers is so rewarding!
  • Dredge: The fast-paced lockpicking-like fishing minigame in Dredge is a ton of fun! This minigame gets even more interesting when you’re trying to find fish that will fit into your inventory!
  • Minecraft: Incredibly simple fishing mechanic, but being able to build a cozy fishing spot, and fish in it, is what makes me love it so much.


Making a game has been a dream I’ve had since I was a kid, and it’s very unreal to have finally done it. Thank you to everyone who has played the game, said something nice about it, and shared it with others. It’s always really validating to hear, and tells me that all the time invested into this game was worth something. So, from the deepest depths of my heart, thank you.

Sleepy sheep

Art by Rae (@rae@mastodon.gamedev.place)


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Check out Reel-istic Fishing in Catalog