The best fishing this side of arcades.
Ever since the introductions of Sega Bass Fishing back on the ill-fated Dreamcast fishing games have been on a steady decline. The idea of creating an interactive experience about a relaxing past-time such as fishing is a delicate process. You either make it extremely casual and fun or you aim for the more realistic approach. Rapala Fishing Frenzy 2009 strives for the latter with a bit of arcade thrown in for good measure. While it is missing a few key components that have become commonplace here in the new-age of gaming, it does manage to deliver one of the better fishing experiences to come along in quite some time.
The most important aspect about a fishing game is the control. So far no one has created a fishing controller for Xbox 360 so the developers had to improvise, and for the most part it works surprisingly well. Casting is the only disappointment as you only have one option. Aim your rod where you want to cast, flick back on the analog stick and lunge forward to toss your line. You can control power but not much else. Once in the water you can tug at your line and reel it in using the right trigger.
The act of catching fish and reeling them in now though has been improved substantially. When you lure a fish in you have to perform a quick controller combo to hook them on the line. While luring them in with the right stick you will have to work against the tension line by tapping left and right on the analog stick. To prevent boredom the developers have also added random button combos that flash on the screen that give you bonus points of performed correctly. Supposedly these can give you bonuses on reeling them in, but from my experience they only reward you points and have little effect on catching the fish.
While the combos have little effect on catching the fish, ignoring them can cause you to lose it altogether, so nailing them is essential. Each fish also has a stamina meter that is larger or smaller depending on the fish. Later in the game when you are tackling bigger fish it is crucial that you nail combos and pay close attention to the tension meter. What this all boils down to is a perfect blend of arcade action and realistic simulation that will entertain fans of both styles alike.
The single player focuses around the Tournament Mode where you work your way through various challenges on three different difficulties. These challenges range from simple score goals to catching a specific number of a particular fish in the allotted amount of time. The main difference between difficulties are the button combos and the fact that fish become more and more picky about which lure they will go for. Each challenge takes place in one of several real-life lakes and for the most part moves along at a steady pace. Achievement junkies will be thrilled to know that there are only nine Achievements to be found and, depending on skill, you can obtain them fairly quickly as they pertain to traversing through the Tournament Mode.
You can also relax from the main game by jumping into Open Mode or try your hand at a number of random encounters in the Quick Play Challenges. Unfortunately though Rapala Fishing Frenzy 2009 commits one of the biggest crimes for this generation; no online play. While we do get some paltry online leaderboards, there is absolutely no multi-player over Xbox Live at all. With all of the options and games out there that support online play having a fishing title that does not is near criminal in nature. In fact this seems to be the one genre that is denied this feature over and over, which is hard to believe as it would greatly extend the life of the game. Imagine online fishing tournaments in randomly generated lakes. The possibilities are endless, but instead we are resorted to comparing fish size in leaderboards-lame.
Visually the game is actually quite the looker; in fact this is easily the best looking fishing title on a console to date. The water is gorgeous, the fish models are incredibly detailed and the underwater environments are breathtaking. The problem lies in the fact that the game has a very unstable frame rate. More often than not the game will chug for no apparent reason; it isn’t like there was a plethora of fish that suddenly attacked the side of the boat. Character animations on the boat are also very stiff, but that is mostly nitpicking. Sound is decent enough offering some soothing music and appropriate ambience; just don’t expect to be blown away when you pump it through a surround sound.
Rapala Fishing Frenzy 2009 is probably the best fishing game I have encountered in quite some time. It has inventive controls, superb visuals (minus the slowdown) and enough challenges to keep you occupied for months to come. The lack of true online really dampens the experience though and makes me wonder what could have been. Still at $40 it is hard not to recommend this game to fans of the genre. You will be hard pressed to find a more complete fishing title on the current consoles.