|The fishing game trend has
stabilized somewhat, and it looks like these games have succeeded at creating something of
a niche genre. While many gamers scoff at the concept of a game based on one of the
slowest sports known to humanity, they are actually quite a bit of fun. I was a
non-believer, and Sega Bass Fishing single-handedly converted me. Now, Ive learned
to appreciate the intricacies of a good fishing game. I think they are somewhat akin to
fighting games in that they require a certain amount of technique and skill development,
and the settings and opponents dont change a whole lot. Still, like fighting games,
fishing games can offer great play on every session. Plus, you dont have to drive
home after spending an afternoon slugging brews and trash-talking your buddies.
Still, the fishing game also has a rightful home in the "hunting" genre, after all, its just hunting for fish. And, as we all know, the hunting genre was created by Wal-Mart for the PC with two explicit goals in mind: 1) Create cheap games that everybody can afford (especially kids shopping for Dad); and 2) Create games with low system requirements so everybodys PCs can run them. Wal-Mart succeeded, and the low-cost, low-reqs scheme has since been adopted by many software publishers. And, of course, a few have chosen to go the opposite route, figuring that these games have been popular enough to generate a fan base with better computers and more cash to spend on software.
Take Two Interactive has been pursuing a somewhat similar line of thought with their series of $9.99 titles. The first two, Grudge Warriors and Spec Ops, met with resoundingly bad reviews, and, in truth, deservedly so. Grudge Warriors offered first-gen PSX graphics and extremely limited variety in play, and Spec Ops, well, when you could see what was going on, it really wasnt worth looking at. And the gameplay It looks like Take Two has learned from their initial foray, and their latest offerings, Ball Breakers and Action Bass, are significantly better than the forebears.
Action Bass feels like those initial hunting games that were targeted for non-gamers. Sure, its no Sega Bass Fishing or Big Bass Fishing or Black Bass Fishing (see a trend here?), but its not bad at all. And if you consider just who is looking for a cheap fishing game, odds are the target audience will be impressed.
Action Bass looks like an older PSX game than it is. Thats probably to be expected. If the cost on these suckers is any indication, they are most likely being developed at an accelerated pace and relying on tried-and-true methods of programming and game construction, rather than fiddling and tweaking with them to squeeze out every last drop of graphical capabilities from the PlayStation. Still, the game doesnt suffer from the same lighting problems of Spec Ops, so everything is easy to see. The worst graphical offense in this game is its sparse 2D scenery flora look like cardboard standies, and you wont be seeing any crawdads or turtles cruising around these areas.
There are four modes of play. In Arcade mode you participate in a series of bass fishing competitions in four areas. The numbers are pretty realistic (at least from, my limited survey of bass fishing competitions on the Outdoor Life network they seemed realistic), so you have to catch a lot of bass to move on. That will take quite a bit of practice in the Free mode, so you better start working out your reel hand. Free mode, as in most other games, allows you to cruise the areas of competition and spend as much time as youd like honing your skills. When you catch big fish, you can add them to your aquarium and view them in Aquarium mode. While this mode is fairly innovative, its also pretty boring. As I said before, the graphics in Action Bass arent exactly "to die for," so looking at your blocky fish swim in and out of totally 2D seaweed is less than thrilling. Once youve beaten the Arcade competition, youre rewarded with a new area to fish in, new lures, and the Extra mode, which is pretty much an expert competition.
You begin the game with five lures available, including the minnow, rattling minnow, diving minnow, and spinner. Throughout the course of the game you can unlock four more, for a grand total of nine lures to choose from, which aint bad at all. I expected that Action Bass might be so cheap that they didnt really incorporate lure technique, but to my surprise and joy, each one really must be used quite differently.
And thats about all, folks. If you were expecting a whole lot more, then you havent played enough fishing games. As any good angling game should, Action Bass supports the fishing controller for PlayStation, but its not required. As I said before, if youre a hardcore gamer, you probably will spend too much time picking apart the graphics and sparse landscapes to really enjoy Action Bass. If youre really into fishing games, then it might not be a bad choice to pick up; theres not exactly a huge glut of fishing titles due this fall. But what this game kept saying to me was: "Get it for Dad!" Instead of a lame tie or the wrong drill bit, pick Dad up something he might actually enjoy. Heck, he puts up with you kids on the PlayStation all weekend long, let him get in on the action. Maybe then itll be easier to convince him to shell out for a next-gen system. And when you compare Action Bass with the lame-ass handheld fishing games, which cost $15-$20, theres no doubt that it dominates.