If Bass Fishing Mania 4 is anything to go by, fishing is easy. Gormless fish swarm around your boat and jump onto your hook with abandon, and you never get rained on, stink of fish, or have to handle live maggots.
Delve into the game’s Arcade mode and you’re practically surrounded by the freshwater critters from the off, and your goal is simply to amass the largest catch you can in the time available. A simple but robust fishing mechanic has you casting your line out, watching the movement of nearby fish, and striking at the appropriate moment.
Then it’s simply a matter of moving your rod against the struggling bass to tire it, and pressing '5' to reel in your weary catch. It’s an engaging system, but one that quickly becomes a formality, and only the biggest of bass will ever give you any trouble.Fishing for compliments
The simple setup of the Arcade mode is that you’ve got three minutes to fish your little heart out, with bonus seconds awarded for each fish caught. The greater the weight of fish you catch, the bigger your score.
Leaderboards display highscores and your finest individual catches, neatly eliminating the need for any angling exaggeration of the ‘it was thiiis big’ variety. Unfortunately, leaderboards show local scores only, so you won’t be competing against distant fishermen, but the feature keeps track of your greatest forays into the sedate Arcade mode.
Players expecting a substantial showing from the Competition mode are likely to be disappointed, though – as is anyone who’s played previous instalments in the series. For instance, Jim's Rods and Tackle store is nowhere to be seen, seemingly having gone out of business since Bass Fishing Mania 3.
These are tough economic times, of course, but the option to purchase upgrades and equipment from ole Jim is sadly missed in a Competition mode that feels undernourished. You’re simply catching fish against the clock for the most part, with no progression except the changing settings in which you cast your lure.Mega Shark versus Fishing Boat
Competition mode does have one unique feature, though, and it’s a weird one – the ‘giant killer fish’.
This deadly marine predator lurks in every lake and lagoon you visit, and you’ll have to take care to reel in your catches slowly when this monster is nearby. Disturb the waters too much and your precious catch will be gobbled up by the prowling beast.
The mechanic differentiates Competition mode from the vanilla Arcade mode, but accomplishes little else, and the sense of bewildered amusement quickly fades. Having to mount a daring escape from each contest venue while pursued by the ‘giant killer fish’ is funny the first time, but less so when the exact same sequence is repeated.
And it’s just plain irritating the third time.Why does it always rain on me?
Because of the low-rent visuals and jarring tonal shift, these wacky interludes feel bolted on to the polished central fishing experience inherited from previous series entries. While fishing, the game mixes 3D objects with 2D environments to good effect, creating environments with a certain travel brochure sheen to them.
But you’ll only ever encounter four of these picture-perfect settings, as the Competition mode is just so short. There are only four rounds to complete, each just a few minutes in duration. Your reward for tournament victory is the opportunity to glance at your trophy before you’re dumped back onto the title screen, with your progress reset.
There’s simply no reason for a second playthrough, so you’re left with the Arcade mode. It’s fun, but limited, and compared to its predecessors Bass Fishing Mania 4 seems like a backwards step and a missed opportunity.