Rapala Pro Bass Fishing is like having an arcade machine in your living room. It may not have the appeal of current blockbuster titles on the market, but what it brings a fun, arcade-style fishing experience that is sure to please, whether you’re a fishing enthusiast or not.
Starting up Rapala Pro Bass Fishing the first thing gamers will notice is the flat and grainy graphics. The menus and background graphics look straight out of the PS2 era and the sound is what you'd expect to hear at the arcades. Getting discouraged here would be a mistake because after this initial hit of bland graphics and music it gets better gameplay wise. Concluding the majority of our negativity about the game to get it out of the way quickly, the graphics don’t ever get much better: the lakes above and underwater look adequate but not PS3 quality, and character and fish animations are all just adequate. It gets the job done and that's about it, and is about what is expected from a lower budget title. Tips menus intended to help out actually sometimes get in the way while fishing and the announcer and music loops repeat more than we cared to hear. These are all acceptable issues when playing in an arcade in short burst but at home on a console these issues will have gamers looking for the ability to turn these settings off, and thankfully that ability is available here.
Gameplay is where Rapala Pro Bass Fishing gets it right. Judging by its “Pro” Bass Fishing name you might be expecting simulation-style gameplay, but instead it's a fast action experience that will have gamers flailing around with the Move controller in hand to land a fish. Catching fish is very simple, as all it takes is selecting the right lure for the desired fish and driving the boat to a fishing “hot spot”. Casting is done by holding the T button and making a natural casting motion with the Move controller. Once the lure enters the water the camera changes to an underwater view and the controls become a minigame of sorts. Different lures have different reeling patterns and successfully staying in pattern while reeling gives attraction bonuses for luring the fish to bite. These patterns can result from holding the Move controller up and reeling by holding the T button, to a side to side motion while reeling in. There is a useful side menu called the Fish Trainer that shows the pattern to follow as well as music that plays consecutively unless the pattern or rhythm is broken. This music rhythm game doesn’t sound like it would fit in a fishing game on paper, but it works great and is much better than sitting for hours bobbing a lure around wishing for a bite. Moments later a fish will take the bait and setting the hook is a natural jerk with the Move controller.
Once on the line the fish will flail left and right and it’s the angler's job to pull the opposite of the fish to try and keep the fish in the centre of the screen. Centred in the screen the fish can be reeled in without putting stress on the hook which can easily result in a lost fish. This fast paced approach to fishing is great fun and the gameplay style is very fitting for Move controls. The simplified approach to finding fish is also appreciated as the Fish Finder also doubles over as a Mini-Map and shows fishing spots clearly with colour dots. Ease of knowing which lure to select is also appreciated as entering the tackle box and selecting the desired fish to be caught shows a meter with how well the effectiveness of the highlighted lure. This takes away what could have been hours of trying to find the right lure for the job.
Rapala Pro Bass Fishing brings with it two modes to fish in. Free Fishing lets anglers fish without regards to time limits as well as having many different challenges to complete on each of the seven lakes. Each lake has its own set of fish unique to it, as well as a few "Monster Fish" to catch, and landing one of them can be quite thrilling as they fight much harder than the standard size fish. Completing challenges in Free Fishing unlocks new lures, boats and character outfits to use that are helpful in Tournament mode, which is exactly what is expected: multiple series of events with different tasks to be completed against other anglers. There are three difficulties, though even in the hardest difficulty the competition isn't up to much and you'll breeze through the tournaments. A steeper difficulty as you climb the ladder would have made the Tournament mode a much more enjoyable experience. Winning in the Tournaments in this mode will unlock gear such as new rods and reels and although it’s a nice touch, it only makes the difficulty easier with added casting accuracy and distance. Fighting fish does have a few new additions while progressing through the tournaments that add new minigame prompts to the fish fighting that are nothing more than timed button presses when the fish starts to jump out of the water. Quickly these become second nature and don’t add any real difficulty to landing the fish, just extending and varying the experience, but are welcome additions nonetheless.
Fishing with the DualShock or the Move controller is much the same experience. Move allows for natural fishing movements to cast and fight the fish with and makes the experience feel more realistic, but navigating menus and selecting tackle can be a frustrating experience as it uses the same method as navigating the PS3 XMB. Holding the T button and using motions to select does work, but not always as accurately as we would have liked and an on-screen cursor should have been implemented instead. Holding the Move controller with two hands as you would an actual rod while casting and luring a fish seemed to make it extremely accurate, avoiding coming up short on casts and getting off-pattern while luring a fish. Driving the boat around requires holding the Move button to accelerate and the T button to brake, which seems backwards as the T button allows for pressure sensitive acceleration which is needed at times. Driving the boat is also handled with motion controls by twisting the Move controller; it works, but not as well as the DualShock's analogue sticks. As for using the DualShock controller to fish, the left analogue stick creates all the movements that would be performed with the Move controller respectively. Overall the Move controller is our preferred controller to use as the shortcomings in the menus and boat navigation don’t outweigh the fun Move brings to the actual luring and fighting fish.
Rapala Pro Bass Fishing is a mixed bag. The overall experience of the game will wear thin after a few hours of playtime, but the amount of Rapala licensed items to unlock, lake challenges and Monster Fish to catch add many hours of extra playtime to extend the experience. Trophy fanatics will be pleased to know that the game has a robust trophy set that includes an easy to obtain Platinum trophy. Fishing enthusiasts looking for an arcade-style fishing experience may warrant a purchase here, but otherwise this is a great rental/bargain bin title. Rapala Pro Bass Fishing brings a fast and fun Move-enabled arcade experience to the PS3 that will lure you in for awhile, but in the end falls flat.