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Reel Fishing: Master's Challenge review for PS Vita


Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Natsume
Developer: Natsume
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E

In some ways, I'm kind of a horrible person to be reviewing Reel Fishing: Master's Challenge. After all, it's a fishing game, and I've been a strict vegan for nearly a decade. On top of that, it features a super-maudlin story about the game's protagonist visiting his late dad's old cabin, where be reflects on his father's life as he prepares to become a father himself. While I get along just fine with my own dad, I can't imagine there being any kind of similar pilgrimages in my future when that unfortunate time comes, and I'm probably even more hardcore about my childfree-ness than I am about being vegan. I'm sure there are ways this game could feature a lifestyle and a belief system that's even more diametrically opposed to mine than this…but I'm struggling to think of how they might do it.

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That said, there's a lot to be said for video games as a vehicle for escapism. I've never been and almost certainly will never be a trigger-happy treasure hunter, a vengeful Greek god or a farmer, but that never stopped me from loving the Uncharted, God of War or Farming Simulator franchises. Likewise, even if I can't imagine a scenario in which I'm actually an expectant father going fishing, I have to say: Reel Fishing does a pretty decent job of making it seen enjoyable.

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I think it works for the same reason the Farming Simulator games work. It's not flashy or action-packed, but it does a great job of lulling you into its simple, straightforward rhythms. Reel Fishing obviously has much more of a story, but the game's basic routine seldom varies: you wake up, you reminisce about your father, you go fishing. Occasionally you break that up by heading down to the store to buy more bait and chat with the shopkeeper, who reminds you of your dad. It's not the most riveting game, obviously, but in its own subtle way, it's surprisingly addictive.

I also think it's surprisingly gross…but that's just my veganism talking. Personally, I'm kind of appalled by the sight of fish flopping around on the ground after you've reeled them in, gasping for air as they slowly die out of the water. (And the little subplot of fixing the cabin's aquarium to house the fish doesn't excuse it for me.) That said, from an objective point of view, "realistic-looking fish" in a fishing game can only be considered a good thing.

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I also have to commend Natsume for making a game with such simple, easy-to-understand controls. As the execrable Let's Fish: Hooked On showed, it's shockingly easy to make a fishing game with terrible controls, so good on Natsume for making their game so wonderfully intuitive.

In fact, good on Natsume for making a fishing game that's better than Let's Fish in every conceivable way, because by extension that means they've come up with the best fishing game on the Vita. Obviously, being the best in a field of two isn't exactly a momentous achievement, so that label is a little hollow, but at the same time, Reel Fishing is a good enough game that it would probably deserve the title even against much stiffer competition.

Grade: A-