Let’s Fish: Hooked on! is in a difficult position. It’s the first and only fishing game for the Playstation Vita and it’s releasing in one of the traditionally quietest release windows of the year, with no competition. Seriously though, it would be very easy for SIMS Co., Ltd. to see an opportunity to make a quick profit here and to rush out a fishing game that’s of a low quality. For those of you who are unaware, SIMS Co., Ltd. are experienced when it comes to creating high quality fishing titles, as they are responsible for creating Sega Bass Fishing, a title that was released in arcades and on the Dreamcast in 1997, which had an optional fishing peripheral so players could literally reel the fish in. It was ported to the Wii as well, and has also appeared as part of a compilation for the X-Box 360, so you can imagine the quality of the initial release.
Although there are certainly similarities between Sega Bass Fishing and Let’s Fish: Hooked On!, SIMS Co., Ltd. have adopted a similar art style to Clap Handz’ Everybody’s Golf series in order to appeal to a much wider audience. Indeed, when I first saw the trailer for Let’s Fish, I was surprised that it wasn’t developed by Clap Handz, though those of you who have played one of the many games in the Everybody’s Golf series will know that cute graphics and characters that coincide with deep and accurate gameplay can be a winning formula. Personally, I have little prior experience with fishing games, and I have never been fishing in real life, so I fit perfectly into the target demographic that SIMS Co., Ltd. have aimed their title at here. Being a Playstation Network only release at the budget price of £14.99/€19.99, I wasn’t really sure whether Let’s Fish would aim to have the depth of gameplay and campaign of a fully fledged release or whether it would be a smaller, budget title, the likes of which we are seeing more and more recently as the Playstation Network fills up with smaller indie releases. I’m pleased to announce that Let’s Fish has played a clever game (no pun intended) and has adopted a low price while offering an immersive and lengthy single player experience. While there are a few flaws that detract from the experience, as a whole package it’s nice to be able to say for once that the price could have been higher. In a world where titles are often overpriced (Earth Defense Force: 2017 Portable!) it’s refreshing to get so much content for such a low price.
Despite my bold statements above, my initial hours of gameplay were spent with frustration and anger inducing gameplay. Upon loading up Let’s Fish you are given five options; Challenge, World Tour, Training, Underwater View and Tutorial. The game comes with the usual e-manual bundled in, but is fairly vague and doesn’t offer up much of an explanation beyond briefly introducing the controls and game modes. Similarly, all the tutorial does is overlay the control options at each stage while you play (casting, catching, hooking and fighting) and this is what initially confused me. Having no prior knowledge of fishing as a sport, I spent several hours switching between the tutorial and training (training is basically freeplay), wondering what the hell I was doing wrong, only catching tiny fish and breaking the line every time a fish bigger than a minnow hooked on. Eventually, I worked out that using a combination of the touch controls and buttons work. Each action you perform in Let’s Fish can be controlled by either the buttons and left analog stick or by touch. Me, thinking I’d like a change from using the button based controls made my initial decision to play using only the touch screen, as I decided this could be more fun. Oh, how wrong I was! You see, casting is done either by pressing the circle button once to get ready and a second time at the optimal power, or by flicking the screen up once to get ready and tapping it again at the right time for power. The touch screen controls here work very well as there is a certain satisfaction that comes from flicking the screen in a similar motion to your character on screen. All good so far. You can also move the boat from left to right by dragging the screen or by using the left stick and again the touch screen controls work fine here. Once you have cast your bait into the water, you are presented with a bar that runs across the right hand side of the screen which works as an analog slider for the speed you reel the bait in. The very bottom of the bar allows you to release tension, while sliding up slightly reels in slowly and sliding to the top reels in quickly. Again, this all works rather well, though you are given the options to release tension, reel slowly or quickly with the face buttons if you wish. A quick tap of the square button also reels in completely just in case you have messed up or there are no fish in the area you have cast, so you can cast again with speed. You can also use the left stick to make little jerk movements underwater to quickly reposition the bait so it’s in line with nearby fish, and a handy bar at the bottom of the screen shows your current level of “allure” (which constantly makes me think of BBC’s Miranda, but I digress) to help you work out which bait and movement patterns are working well to tempt the fish. When a fish has a go at your bait is where I ran into problems. As soon as the fish bites the bait, a three way slider appears on screen, with a hook symbol in the middle and a symbol of the fish in one of three directions. What the game fails to explain particularly well (in less it was just me being dense) is that you can either slide the hook with your finger to the fish, or use the analog stick, which is much faster and doesn’t rely on you taking your right thumb off the slider. Once you’ve hooked on the fish, and almighty battle ensues where you attempt to reel the fish in quickly when the line tension is low, and release the tension / reel in slowly when the tension is high to avoid the line snapping. All this works well but the curve ball that is introduced to make things more frantic is each time the fish changes direction a slider in the middle of the screen appears again and you need to react quickly or the line breaks. Silly me, trying to employ just touch controls became completely enraged trying to reel in then quickly match the on screen slider, go back to reeling in then matching the slider etc. etc. until the fish was caught. This does NOT work well at all. In the end I realised the easiest thing to do was to keep my thumb on the slider and to use the analog stick to match the fishes changes in direction. Being a fishing virgin I feel this could have been explained a lot better. The tutorial therefore is an almost completely redundant feature that could and should have been a way to ease newbies into the game.
The bait is another issue I ran into, and it took trial and error to learn which bait worked best for which fish. I was also initially unaware that only bass count towards your score, and so a few times I ended up hooking the wrong type of fish. To further add to the issues, fish are weighed in pounds and ounces, but later competitions only allow fish over a certain weight, which is given to you in grams, so I had to use google to find the minimum weight in pounds and ounces. Despite these issues, when it finally did click and I worked out what to do, the game suddenly became exceptionally good fun, and I felt ready to pursue the main game modes, Challenge and World Tour. I thought I’d start with the Challenge mode as it consists of quick-fire rounds where you aim to get three stars in a variety of courses, weathers and seasons. Again this was a mistake I made, as I found it difficult to achieve stars in each level. I thought the Challenge mode would probably be easier than World Tour to get into, as World Tour saves your current progress as you compete and I figured I’d probably end up in last place as I was still learning the techniques of the game. This was another error on my part, as World Tour has a very competent and balanced difficulty curve, and initial stages are very easy to win. Therefore my advice to avoid throwing your Vita at the nearest wall or inanimate object is this: Try all control methods but don’t use just touch, and tackle World Tour before Challenge mode. Had this been better explained in the first place I would not have wasted several hours when I first started playing, and yet despite all this I had immense fun once I got into it. The basic goals you are given from stage to stage are catch as many fish as possible or catch as much weight in fish as you can. World Tour has you competing against fictional characters while Challenge is made up of set goals. There are four characters in the game, and each is slightly better at either casting, hooking, fighting or catching. The characters themselves are all fairly likeable and the World Tour mode attempts to tie in a story by using anime stills, and although the story is particularly bad, the dialogue is fairly tongue in cheek and I did notice myself smiling at the charm and over-the-top nature of it all. It’s certainly a very Japanese title (if you poke the on screen characters they even tell you off), and the quirky humour will appeal to some. Unfortunately the characters can become a little irritating the more you play, as each one only has a handful of phrases that they repeat a little too often, and I found myself getting tired of hearing “Here, fishy fishy!” after several hours of gameplay. The music is less offensive and blends into the background well, and the sound effects prompt well when it comes to hooking and catching the fish.
Visually the title is fairly pleasing on the eye and generally looks good, though there is the feeling that it never really pushes the Vita hardware. Some textures are bright and well detailed and characters are well animated but there are also some poorly detailed textures as well and in particular reeds and underwater foliage can look very blocky when zoomed in. The fish themselves are very high detail however and generally behave fairly realistically, although they do sometimes judder a bit when they spot the bait and swim in to watch it while deciding whether it’s worth eating. The fish also often appear out of nowhere which is both strange and bizarre to watch. There were instances where I reeled my bait through the water and several fish would suddenly appear out of nowhere as if by teleport. Whether the fish are interested in the bait or not can also sometimes feel a bit random which is also frustrating, as perfect casting and reeling occasionally failed as my bait moved right past a fish and they just swam on by like nothing had happened (though I suppose you could argue that real fish can be somewhat random in this nature).
All in all my experiences with Let’s Fish were positive. The campaign is long and well balanced, there are extra challenges and there’s even a platinum trophy that will take many hours to achieve. The gameplay, which could get old never did with me, as I found a Pokémon style addiction was bred from the concept of catching as many fish as possible. The score could have been higher if the niggles I mentioned were ironed out, but as it stands, Let’s Fish is still very good value for money and a lot of fun. The Underwater View mode is rather pointless (you use the Vita like a camera and watch fish) and it’s bizarre that there’s no online play aside from leaderboards (online championships and matches could have been a great addition) but despite the flaws it’s difficult not to be charmed by a game that has been created to appeal to everyone and makes a sport which I find the concept of boring, an enjoyable experience that rewards the player as they become accustomed to learning the controls and flow of gameplay. At the price it’s at and with the level of content on offer here you really could do a lot worse, and whether you’re a fan of fishing or not, the cookie charm and fun gameplay really shines through.