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Review: Let's Fish! Hooked OnLets Fish! Hooked On Vita Review Fishing Sim Anime
Developer: SIMS Co.
Publisher: Wired Productions
Platform: Playstation Vita
Release Date: January 29th (PSN download only)
ESRB: E for Everyone
A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review
Full-fledged fishing games are something of a rarity nowadays in the console/handheld environment. While there's no shortage in the fishing genre when it comes to mini-games or flash games, you still have slim pickings… or slim fishings for them as more in-depth, independent releases. Even stuff like golf sims get their professional or realistic variations often, and the more light-hearted or quirky versions much more often than that. With a simulator core game and a decidedly anime art direction, the developer of the critically acclaimed Sega Bass Fishing series takes the rudder in what seems like an attempt to steer towards a new direction with Let’s Fish! Hooked on.
As you may have surmised from the title, the main game is, of course, centered around catching fish. Despite the misleading anime art direction, it is more sim than not, without too many extra frills. You get a select set of lures which, depending on the stage, are more or less effective at gaining the attention of fish. In addition, after picking a spot and casting the line, you get an underwater perspective where you basically draw the attention of the fish by either swaying the reel or making deliberate stop and go motions with it to tempt them to bite. After you gain the attention of the fish and it successfully bites the lure, it initiates a sort of quick-time mini-game where you make directional-based inputs, as well as making sure the line doesn’t snap, in order to hopefully catch your would-be regular prey. It may sound confusing at first but it will be routine in no time, for better or worse.
Outside of the several tutorial versions, Let's Fish! Hooked On sports only two main modes: World Tour and Challenge mode. Both modes share game types and are either based on fish count or accumulative weight for all catches. Challenge mode as a whole encourages more consistent play within a set, with each challenge broken into three parts and no breaks in-between. World Tour, despite being seemingly built up as a story mode of sorts (which I deem highly inaccurate), is more of a glorified challenge mode with RPG-esque elements. From improving player stats and yielding passive bonuses within a confines of a yearly structure, World Tour has players aim to be at the top of their class in order to move up in tournament levels. All modes, outside of the tutorials, are designed around a time-based structure, where you try to meet a given select goal generally within around two to four minutes.
General flow of Let's Fish! can be addictive, despite the very apparent repetition, but it doesn't really do a good job at masking it, and honestly doesn't really try to. In spite of that, even though it doesn't have a whole lot of variety in modes, objectives, or in general, it is quite a time-sink for those who seek it. The World Tour mode in particular is significantly longer than I anticipated, easily lasting upwards of ten hours for each character, not to mention trying to perfect the challenge mode can be an investment as well.
In regards to presentation, it would be more than challenging to compliment Let’s Fish! Hooked On, especially on such a technically proficient device like the Vita. On an audio side, it is underwhelming, with unimpressive voice acting and some grating music, but I'll give the music a pass, if only because it can has occasionally relaxing background tracks and the cheesy metal guitar riff when catching fish. From a visual side there are more significant issues that hinder the overall pace such as lengthy load times, plenty of visual clipping and textural pop-in, and even some in-game bugs. Even if a part of me wants to overlook facets of the presentation for being a budget downloadable release, Let's Fish! technically was originally a retail game in Japan, making it harder to rationalize. When the presentation overall is stacked against my complaints with the camera and a vexing glitch, it easily becomes jarring overall.
Probably my most significant problem with the game comes in the form of a pretty specific but surprisingly frequent technical glitch. When trying to tempt a fish underwater to bite the lure, the fish can actually charge and phase right through the reel without initiating the QTE minigame, and it will continuously do so. I initially thought it was error on my end due to poor positioning or not being acquainted with the controls, but have encountered it far too many times, suggesting otherwise. So the player’s best solution is either recognizing this problem quickly and trying to fish somewhere else to make up for lost time, or being forced to reset the challenge or tourney. Considering how momentum-based the core game is, with the timed and unnecessarily luck-based structure (especially due to this glitch), it is downright frustrating to realize that, even if you may have had a solid start, especially in the set based challenge mode with no breaks between, only to have it be ruined by the game not actually executing its intended design. I haven't had a single play session where I didn't encounter this, unfortunately.
Another issue I have with the game is with the camera, which kind of does its own thing in regards to the underwater parts in particular. Admittedly, this can be stage- and lure-specific, but that isn't always the case. Even if you plan your positioning via the boat perspective ahead of time and know fish are in the vicinity, which you generally should, it sometimes doesn’t matter because the fish may be at different elevations from your lure or not being close enough, stuck in environments (seriously), not having been loaded yet (yes, very literal pop-in), or they may even not be interested in the lure you are using. All of which, of course, requires visual feedback which doesn’t help when you aren't able to see. Like my previous complaint, either you recognize this quickly and recast your line elsewhere or, well, you might as well throw the match.
What puzzles me further is that there is even a separate ‘underwater mode’ where you can control the camera, albeit by tilting the Vita, but not the two most important main modes. Personally, I would’ve taken that gimmick over no option at all. Considering how even the right analog literally has no use in the entire game, it confounds me further why it couldn't at least be allocated there. Despite me harping on the camera and the lack of control of it, the other controls in Let's Fish! are relatively adequate throughout, with the exception of the tacked-on touch-screen controls. These are functional enough during navigating menus, but during actual gameplay, they came off as unresponsive for QTE inputs, and downright impractical, especially when stacked against the button based alternative it thankfully offers.
The odd thing is that Let's Fish! isn’t particularly difficult after you get the general grasp for it. When the the game works as intended, the simple fishing nature can possibly eat of plenty of time before you know it. However, the myriad of issues I encountered seemingly go out of their way to ruin what the game establishes. Making it it feel unnecessarily luck-based for all the wrong reasons and needlessly frustrating in addition to an already constrictive fishing structure. Also, due to the lack of incentive to keep playing with only two modes and next no variety, it makes for a tough argument to play it for anything other a very literal means of killing time. With the only real marks of progress coming in the form of very general leaderboards, trophies (I mean of the Playstation variety), and lures which are shared/unlocked between modes, this game makes a tough sell for all but the most die-hard anime fishing fans.
Let's Fish! Hooked On is a title I found myself pleasantly surprised by initially, but I only became increasingly annoyed by it the more I played as it. It can be addictive in short bursts, if not for much longer stretches if you don't let the glaring flaws get to you (like myself). However, In order to enjoy it, you have to make a lot of comprises, due to the many shortcomings with its design and presentation. I don’t want to dismiss the game entirely, as fishing games in the console and handheld markets are something of a rarity, but I will advise strong caution for those interested. I can only say for most people beyond a very forgiving niche to try to cast your line elsewhere.
Can be addictive in short bursts
Able to occupy players for a long time
Very unwieldy camera
Not a whole lot of depth/variety to the gameplay
Overall Score: 4.5 (out of 10)
A very flawed but occasionally addictive fishing title for the Vita, it makes for a tough recommendation for anybody but very forgiving fishing game enthusiasts.
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