The closest that we’ve ever come to a fishing rod is the one that shipped alongside the Dreamcast – which is fitting seeing as PlayStation Vita exclusive Let’s Fish! Hooked On was designed by many of the people that worked on SEGA Bass Fishing. And it really shows: from the overenthusiastic speech samples to the grating pop rock, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped straight back into an alternate version of the '90s, where everyone smells of haddock and teenage girls wear unfastened Daisy Dukes.
The problem with developer SIMS’ attempt at resurrecting the arcade angling genre is that it boasts the same simplicity as SEGA’s classic title without any of the urgency – making the game about as mind-numbingly boring as the pastime that it’s based upon. To its credit, there’s an enormous amount of content packed into the digital download, but there’s very little incentive to catch it all.
The bulk of the experience is divided into two modes: World Tour and Challenge. The former puts you behind the rod of one of four different anime-style characters, each with their own angst-ridden angling mini-drama. Sadly, the plot’s delivery mechanism – through text and freeze frames – is almost as dreary as the subject matter, and you’ll find yourself fumbling for the skip button faster than a crab in a simmering saucepan.
In truth, the narrative is just woeful window dressing for the wealth of aquatic action within. You’ll be forced to work your way through three progressively difficult classes by flexing your fishing finesse in a series of tournaments. Shorter stages will reward you with points, which can then be spent on unlocking new abilities to aid you in your angling endeavours. As you progress, you’ll unlock new hooking hotspots, as well as various baits, which can be used to catch different types of sea life.
Angling itself is a simplistic endeavour: you select open spots of water using a technicolour cursor, and cast-off courtesy of a Hot Shots Golf-esque power bar. Once your bait’s dangling in deep water, you’re prompted to carefully wiggle it about in the hope of attracting the attention of any nearby fish. Should one of the unsuspicious souls latch onto your line, you’ll initiate a short mini-game in which you must match QTE-esque button prompts in order to prevent your cord from snapping while you reel in your haul. But while you’ll celebrate your first catch like it’s a whopping 15 pounder, the gameplay soon loses its lustre.
Unfortunately, there’s very little meat to the game outside of hooking fish. The mechanics would perhaps be a little more palatable if the release boasted the same pace as SEGA Bass Fishing, but the action’s disappointingly lethargic by contrast. For one, the title’s so-called hotspots are alarmingly unpopulated, meaning that you’ll spend a lot of your time staring at deserted areas in the hope of stimulating the interest of a passerby. A handy zoom mechanic allows you to see the silhouettes of fish from a distance, but even when you find a cluster of activity, the gill-bearing creatures are often too brainless to pay attention to your lure. And even when an aquatic organism does shape up to bite, we encountered multiple occasions where they simply swam straight through our line, clipping through the scenery as they fidgeted merrily on their way.
The aforementioned Challenge mode fails to mix things up in any meaningful manner. Instead of progressing through tournaments, here you’re forced to work through a slew of rotating objectives instead, where you’ll be asked to net a specific quota of fish or reach a designated weight target. Sadly, the gameplay remains unchanged, and while there are leaderboards to tickle your interest, if you’re already tired of the core mechanics you’re not going to find much incentive to keep playing.
Visually, the game’s far from a catch. There are some nice water effects, but the illusion is undone by a haphazard frame-rate and a generally ugly art direction. While the environments are detailed and sharp, they clash with the characters’ stylised appearances, and the title ends up looking a bit messy as a result. The gritty guitar-driven soundtrack doesn’t fare much better, and you’ll be dreaming of ear transplants once you’ve heard the same shoddy speech samples several times in succession.
An on-rails underwater mode rounds out the package, allowing you to use the Vita’s gyroscope in order to examine your spoils in their natural habitat. Sadly, the limited interaction and robotic animation makes this a poor imitation of Aquanaut’s Holiday, and you’ll soon find yourself occupied by something else – like drying paint.
Let’s Fish! Hooked On is less lobster thermidor and more fish fingers. The angling adventure’s heart’s in the right place, but its monotonous gameplay and lacklustre presentation leave a lot to be desired. Pop this one back in the water, and let it swim a long way away.