There is more to fishing than just throwing some bait into the water and hoping for the best. It is about atmosphere, listening and feeling the sounds of nature, and even bonding with a good drinking buddy or a loved one. Rapala Fishing Frenzy 2009 tries to accomplish the full fishing experience by creating a realistic looking game, but sinks to the bottom when it comes to options and gameplay modes.
Even for a budget title (costing about $30), this game’s lack of options is completely inexcusable and the use of the Rapala license has completely gone to waste. Using about 30 lures, the player will set off to catch the game’s stock of 21 different types of fish. But that is about it.
Multiplayer mode is entirely absent. There is an online leaderboard option, but the menus are rather cumbersome to navigate. There is an option to take a picture of your fish immediately after it is caught, but the shuttle lacks in response time and there is no option to share your pictures with friends and exotic fish are completely absent. When you start the game, you have the option to play as a male or female character with no option to change the character’s appearance. To make matters worse, there is no option to change lines, reels, scent, or even change boating options.
The final nail in the coffin is the absence of a tutorial. Instead of formally instructing the player on how to play the game, the game uses quirky on screen indicators on how to reel in a fish. Using the motion control found the in the PS3 controller, player will flick and twist the controller to cast, set the hook, and reel in fish. But the response of each flick doesn’t seem to properly register with the game causing player to flail around the controller like an idiot.
The game lacks any source of direction too. When playing challenge mode, the game will give an objective like “catch 3 spotted bass.” But the game fails to give the player any background information about spotted bass such as where they like to live or what they like to eat. Instead, the player will just cast out the line and hope they land the right fish. Why isn’t there some type of a summary sheet or encyclopedia on the fish and locations in the game?
Besides the lack of background material, the game also has several programming errors. When you cast in your line, a fish will always come and bite it within seconds eliminating any sense of realism. Then when you set the hook, it is almost impossible to let the fish get away. But following the on screen indicators is both confusing and tiresome, never giving the player a clear understanding of how well the player is doing. The trigger buttons are supposed to be used to reel in and reel out the line, but there really isn’t any point in doing this. Instead of reeling in the line all the way back to your boat, you simply flick and twist the PS3 controller until the fish runs out of energy, in which the game cuts immediately to an image of your character pulling the fish out of the water no matter how far out the line was. Every fish acts the same way too, eliminating any sense of finesse or atmosphere of real fishing.
Fish are modeled and animated well and environments look nice although small. But the camera system is entirely broken. With no option to control it, the camera will zoom and pan however it sees fit, never giving a clear view of the underwater world that should be admired. Clipping is another major problem as fish will often swim right through each other and parts of the environment. Although not an option off the main menu screen, the player has the ability to put on virtual scuba gear to swim with the fishes and take pictures. But this swimming mode is spoiled by very slow movement speed and the behind the mask view point takes up entirely too much screen space. And when you pause to take a picture, the shutter speed is delayed a good three seconds causing the player to miss the shot.
Perhaps the best part about this game is the catchy opening acoustic guitar riff in the main menu screen. The game’s other audio qualities are basic at best.
Through the use of the official Rapala license, this game should be been a killer fishing sim. Instead, this game entirely misses the point. The game has a decent coat of paint that looks good on the front and back of the box art, but rest of the game was omitted. Even the instruction manual lacks clarity and spans only about four pages which could have easily been compressed into one. This game lacks so many options, it is really a wonder how Rapala approved this game, even if it is a budget title. I had a lot more fun playing The Legend of River King back on the original Gameboy back in 1998. Hell, the Ocarina of Time’s fishing mini game is better than this entire title.