Publisher: Wired Productions
I probably spent entirely too much time playing Sega Bass Fishing for the Dreamcast (and in the arcade) back in the day. The game was a fun and fast moving arcade-style representation of fishing that just so happened to come bundled with an awesome plastic fishing controller. Plastic controllers these days have mostly given way to touch screens and motion controls, but the genres, such as fishing, they helped define have survived in one way or another. Thanks to SIMS (the developers behind the original Sega Bass Fishing) and Wired Productions we now have one such fishing game in Let's Fish! Hooked On for the PlayStation Vita. It's definitely a “Sega-style” portable fishing title, but I'll be honest, it loses something without that plastic controller. It's also just not as fun unfortunately.
Let's Fish! Hooked On is fairly ugly, a bit glitchy, and sometimes tedious, but I somehow stuck with it for far longer than I expected. If you've actually played Sega Bass Fishing or any of the sequels then you should know what to expect from an arcade fishing title of this type. Simple controls, colorful visuals, random guitar rock samples, weirdly translated text and loud abrasive voices. Let's Fish! Hooked On follows the pattern established way back when, but attempts to add some depth and replayability along with optional touch/motion controls to the formula. Being portable isn't a bad thing either.
For a fishing game of this sort, Let's Fish! Hooked On has a decent amount of content. There are 4 characters to choose from, a pair of World Tour and Challenge modes to play through, online leaderboards, lures and abilities to earn, and Trophies to collect. There is also a bit of a learning curve beyond simply choosing a lure, casting and reeling in fish.
As with many arcade-style sports titles (if you can call it that), Let's Fish! Hooked On is easy to play and difficult to master. This is true, in part, because the game is sort of lacking in terms of documentation and tutorials beyond learning how to cast, hook and reel. You can purchase ability upgrades for your characters in the World Tour career mode for example, except the descriptions for these upgrades are vague at best. Needless to say, purchasing these abilities, which is accomplished by trading skill points earned in the World Tour mode, upgrades your casting, catching, reeling and hooking abilities to an extent. The same thing can be said when it comes to selecting lures. It took me half the game to realize that you can toggle through different lures for different depths, and that at the start of each session, the “lure appeal” factor of each lure can change, seemingly at random. I'm sure this is tied in with the fishing season and the location somehow, but there's certainly no clear or consistent logic behind it.
Speaking of giving up, Let's Fish! Hooked On becomes difficult pretty quickly, primarily in the World Tour mode. In order to move to the next tier, you need to take first place at the end of the tournament year. Once you graduate to professional tier (which is the second of four) and above, the CPU players become way too good in in certain tournaments. Having to track down and catch a 12 pound bass in under 5 minutes is not an easy task, especially when there's probably only one such fish in the entire area with no easy way to find it. Visually, the underwater perspective of the fish sometimes makes it difficult to tell actually how large or small a catch may be before committing to spending 30 seconds or more carefully reeling it in. You do get a feel on how large a catch may be once you hook them and they fight you, but it's not always particularly accurate, nor can you unhook or cut your line at will if you're running out of time. The only sort of fish finding ability in Let's Fish! is the camera zoom, which will show a faint shadow of what looks like a fish at the water line. It's not as helpful as one would hope, but certainly better than nothing.
Graphically, Let's Fish! Hooked On is a mixed bag. The game runs at the PS Vita's native resolution so it's certainly crisp, and the fish themselves can look quite photorealistic at times. The framerate can fluctuate wildly from slow motion and 20fps at one moment to seemingly 60fps+ and hyper-speed. Various factors such as the weather and the location, and oddly enough the lure you choose, can affect the game's performance. The water effects and underwater environments are underwhelming with limited visibility (even in clear water), pop-in, and some jagged sprites. As for glitches and whatnot, Let's Fish! never appears to properly take into account the obstacles that the fishing line would wrap around when reeling or fighting a fish. So either the line seemingly get hooked up on something invisible, or more frequently, not at all. There are also numerous times that a fish will be pulled into the boat from several meters away, or they will warp around the area or disappear entirely.
Considering it has no competition… Let's Fish! Hooked On is surely the best fishing game available for the PlayStation Vita and fans of the genre (like myself) may enjoy it for a little while. Even with the Vita's bells and whistles however it fails to live up to the Sega-style arcade fishing games of old.