Even though it’s still unseasonably nippy outside (here in VA at least), springtime is upon us. For anglers, this is peak bass season as the spawning beds heat up with activity that is ideal for shallow water sight fishing. This year spring has also ushered in a new season of River Monsters, which I continue to be hopelessly addicted to. Where else on TV will you see a badass fisherman attempt to catch a mutant catfish on the cooling pond of Chernobyl?
(Sorry, I got sidetracked there for a moment. Let’s get this ship back on track, shall we?)
If you’re not quite ready to break out the angling gear and go all Jeremy Wade on the nearest body of water, or if you simply prefer to avoid real nature entirely (come on, the sun won’t hurt you, I promise!), power on your Vita and consider reeling in a copy of Let’s Fish: Hooked On as your next PSN catch.
Let’s Fish, as you might expect coming from the development team responsible for Sega Bass Fishing, takes an arcade approach to landing lunkers. The $19.99 digital download comes carrying a tackle box fully stocked with anime characters, two modes of play, hundreds of lures and nearly a dozen different bodies of water to cast said artificial bait into.
World Tour serves as the career mode, with each of the four anime anglers available to take through a multi-year progression of tournaments and skill challenges. Each character has a unique story and skill set, but none of it really matters. Anyone expecting worthwhile narrative from a fishing game has misguided expectations.
For that reason, Challenge mode is this game’s main fishing hot spot. Instead of faking an attempt to care about your angling avatar’s personal story, Challenge mode has you completing time trial-style missions at each of the 11 fishing locales, from lodges and old bridges to ruins and dams. Each area progresses through the four natural seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter – and during each season you will need to complete a series of three missions which will either require you to catch a certain number of fish within a short time limit or reach a weight target within a specific number of catches. Mission success is rewarded with a star, and once all three stars are earned during a season a random lure is unlocked. Challenge rankings are also tracked via online leaderboards, a nice touch for players looking to engage in anonymous my-bass-is-bigger-than-your-bass competition.
Regardless of mode, the actual fishing mechanic is equal parts intuitive and overly basic. Once you’ve got a fish on the line, the man-versus-bass tug of war devolves into a simple quick time event in which you must tilt the left analog stick or drag your finger on the touch screen in the directions indicated by a rod action prompt that pops up every few seconds. If you move the rod in the correct direction before the prompt disappears, the line tension decreases and a window opens up for you to crank that reel without fear of the line snapping. But if you miss the prompt, in all likelihood the line’s going to break, and your tackle box is going to be a lure lighter for the remainder of the expedition.
These battles with aquatic creatures aren’t without drama and tension. In fact, the pulse begins to pound quite rapidly when a fat bass is on the line, the tension meter starts screeching, and you have only a split-second to react before incurring a line break. The problem is that there is no real nuance to manually working the rod or trying different reeling methods with lures, and thus the initial thrill of landing a trophy bass quickly becomes all too predictable and even a bit too easy once a general grasp of the rod action timing has been achieved. I applaud the accessible nature of the controls and the fact that the game can be played entirely with fingers on the touch screen (buttons and analog sticks work too), but as a result the gameplay is almost too streamlined. This doesn’t necessarily make the game less enjoyable as a quick fishing pick-me-up, but it does dash any hope for “realistic fishing action” as the game is described as offering. A fishing sim this game is not.
It sure doesn’t help that the player characters repeatedly spout off enthusiastic exclamations of delight literally after every single rod action. During an average fight you’re going to hear “Yep!” or “Alright!” as many as ten times, if not more. As far as I can tell there’s no way to shut off the voices other than to outright mute the Vita’s speakers. More problematic is the way the frame rate crashes whenever rain begins to pour. The engine runs smoothly when the weather’s clear, but as soon as the clouds roll in it’s like the entire game flips on a slow-motion switch, which in turn alters timing on casting and reeling. Bummer.
Fishing is a rather mundane hobby/sport that doesn’t lend itself to what many people would consider to be a particularly exciting gaming experience, but like the real activity there is something about battling a big ol’ stinky bass hanging at the end of a line that provides a primal, soothing break away from blasting bad guys and fighting through hours of random encounters. Every gaming device needs a fishing game, and for the PlayStation Vita Let’s Fish is currently the best available option. Is it the greatest fishing game ever created? Hardly. Does it hang up on a few nasty snags? Sure. But as a straightforward arcade representation of sport fishing it does offer short bursts of fun that gradually add up to many unexpected gameplay hours spent trying to complete all the challenges and unlock every last lure.
In angler speak, Let’s Fish is the nice 5-pounder you’ll land and admire for a while before throwing back to possibly hook again (hopefully bigger next time), not the trophy catch worthy of being stuffed and mounted on the man cave wall.
+ Challenge mode is perfect for quick bursts of on-the-go fishing
+ Unlocking lures becomes a “gotta catch ’em all” addiction
+ Accessible mix of touch screen and button control options
– Overly streamlined gameplay lacks nuance, grows stale over long sessions
– Occasional frame rate dips and animation glitches
– “Yep! Yep! Yep!” OK, I get it. Please shut the hell up already!
Platform: PlayStation Vita via PSN
Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: 1/29/2013
Genre: Sports – Fishing
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Source: Review code provided by publisher