Sports games have always been something of a strange beast. It takes a lot of talent and innovation to be able to develop a really good sports game no matter what type of sport you are attempting to bring into people’s home. While the mainstream sports like football, basketball and baseball are usually covered by the larger publishers and automatically have their dedicated fan bases who will go out and buy the latest annual incarnations regardless of the quality of the games themselves, some of the more obscure or less popular sports have more of a struggle.
For a game like FIFA, EA’s priority is to target the game first at football fans and secondly at gamers in general, knowing that there’s already a large enough consumer base for the game to be profitable but when it comes to other sports, the game has to be able to reach beyond its core fans while still retaining a degree of authenticity to keep everyone happy. It’s not an easy task to maintain this balance and it’s something that has plagued developers since the 1980s and the first real breakthrough game was Leaderboard back on the Commodore 64 which managed to turn golf into a genuinely fun and addictive game that anyone could pick up and play. But what about something like fishing? Could what is seen by most people as a solitary and rather slow-paced activity really be translated into a fun, exciting game?
So onto Let’s Fish! Hooked On… it certainly has an impressive pedigree, coming from the same developers who were responsible for Sega Bass Fishing so you already know that they are capable of turning the sport into a fun, accessible game. Since that was released though, gamers have become far more demanding and certainly as an someone who has no interest in fish apart from coated in batter and served with a side portion of chips, there’s already a lot of work to do for me to be impressed by this game.
Taking what could be considered to be a similar approach to Everybody’s Golf, the game revolves around four anime characters who take the central role in the game. You can choose between the four to decide you who control, each having their own strengths and weaknesses (and each of them can have their abilities improved as you progress through the game) and – unusually for a game of this type – their own storyline in the game’s Story Mode (although I’ll come onto the game’s modes in a moment). In terms of the characters themselves, on first impressions I didn’t notice any real difference between them (although this could become more evident later on) but quite strangely, there was only one male character out of the four and whether some may find that off-putting I don’t know…
The game mechanics are fairly simple to pick up making the game incredibly easy to get into. Before starting each match you choose which lure you want to use from the ones you have currently unlocked (out of the 240 available in total), and then you go into the game itself. Simply position your boat on the lake that you are fishing on, cast off (using either the touch screen or O button) and control the movement of the lure in the water to attract the attention of the fish. You can reel in varying speeds or let out more line if you need to and if you get any bites, it’s a battle between you and the fish to land it. At this point you’ll see an arrow on the screen at random intervals as the fish is struggling to get away from your line – simple push in the direction indicated by an arrow on screen (or swipe the touch screen). Do this as often as needed as quickly as you can while continuing to reel the fish in and you’ve got him! If the fish struggles too much and gets away, your line will break… adding a little more hidden depth to the gameplay.
I already mentioned the choice of lures but these actually have a genuine impact on the game rather than being included just for variety and aesthetic appeal. Each lure has a different level of attraction for different fish and responds differently at different depths and different types of water / weather conditions. Once you have the right lure for the fish, catching them can be made a lot easier, but if your line breaks, you lose the use of that lure for the rest of the match so an element of strategy comes into play so landing every fish becomes essential.
There is a Tutorial Mode and Training Mode to ease you into the game gently and teach you how to play, a rather strange Underwater View (which basically just lets you look at fish underwater, controlling the camera with the Vita’s motion control) but the main game comes from the other two play modes. The World Tour (where the game’s Story Mode takes place) is set over a series of years where your chosen character participates in a series of matches, effectively in a career to reach a particular goal for that character. Each month gives you a choice of matches to take part in with varying levels of difficulty. Each is set in different locations, will have different objectives to reach and offer their own rewards at the end of it should you complete them. At the end of each match, you will be rewarded points based on how well you performed against other players and be positioned in a league table in the game. In addition to league points, you also earn experience which you can use to improve your character by learning new abilities and skills.
While the Tour / Career element has a fantastic potential here, and the chance to develop your characters certainly adds to the game, the story itself does let this down dramatically. Let’s Fish! was clearly developed for a Japanese market and has been translated for a western audience… and the dialogue between characters shows this. It has either been very badly translated, badly written or both. The scripting really needed to be engaging and tightly written to make the story vaguely interesting given the nature of the game, but it is clichéd and cringeworthy. Being frank, the game could have either done with this leaving out completely or it is in desperate need of a fix in a future update.
The other part of the game is the Challenge Mode. In this you take on a series of challenges covering all of the lakes that you have currently unlocked over several difficulty settings. Each difficulty setting has three challenges that need to be completed and can range from catching a set number of fish, to meeting target weights all against a time limit. If you complete all three challenges, the next difficulty level is unlocked. Again, you can choose your lure, characters and can play in any order and any of the lakes, each with their own sets of challenges. The more you complete, the more of the 11 settings are unlocked.
You might think that, after what I have said, that I’m really not that impressed with this game. However, despite the dubious dialogue quirky nature, there’s actually a fun game underneath. Even with it’s limited nature and the restrictions of what you can actually do with a fishing game, it’s strangely compelling and the sheer variety of challenges thrown at you – both in the Challenge and World Tour modes – means that you really have no idea what you’re going to be up against from one game to the next. The background visuals look absolutely superb and the fish are incredibly realistic (although sadly the graphics are marred by some clipping and pop-up at times) and while you play you can feel yourself urging them to take a bite of whatever lure you have in front of them. The sense of frustration that you feel as you see a fish swim past is surprisingly rewarding as you realise just how gripped you are by the game and the tension that builds up as the timer is close to running out when you know that you are still short of meeting your target for the challenge really does get your going.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect by this. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised. It’s a great fun game and will not only appeal to anyone who loves fishing, but gamers in general looking for something different to the mainstream racers, shooters and RPGs. If you want something that’s fun, fresh and unique to play on your PS Vita, then this is well worth a go as there really isn’t anything else like it at the moment. Definitely worth the asking price!
At A Glance
- Title: Let’s Fish! Hooked On
- Publisher: Wired Productions
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: 1,491Mb