When somebody mentions fishing all I can think of is maggots, bad smells and the pissing rain, so when Bass Fishing Mania turned up on my phone, along with the message "No fish puns - ed", I wasn't best pleased. I presumed it would be a murky, slow-paced aquatic slog.
I was wrong. After spending some quality time with virtual rod in hand (albeit on the couch, not a boat) I'm pleased to report that my original doubts were completely unjust. There's no stormy weather, no falling asleep next to your granddad; just fast, frenetic button-mashing action.
There are two ways to play the game. If you want to brush up your skills, Freeform lets you fish at leisure without any time constraints. Then you have Competition mode, which pits you against a wealth of other rod-wielders in the bid to become king of the lake. Through days one to three you'll have to finish in the top half of the field, before vying for first plaice on the final day.
Control is simple and feels very responsive. After guiding your speedboat to one of four locations across Lake Horizon, you're presented with a view of the lake and a rod directly in front of you. '5' casts the rod, '4' and '6' tug the line left and right respectively and '8' strikes a fish if you've got a bite. Once hooked, you have to rapidly press the direction indicated to reel 'em in whilst also making sure that your rod tension is slack enough.
To stand any chance of catching bigger fish, you'll have to improve your tackle. Billy Bob is your man for that, and after each day's fishing you can upgrade your equipment in the bearded bumpkin's shop.
There are quicker rods, stronger lines and even a radar that tells you where the beastly bass are lurking. It's a great system and helps to maintain a steady learning curve.
Both technically and visually the design of the game is fantastic. Fish flap around like arrested protesters and the rod physics feel smooth and realistic. The sound also does a great job of building up tension, with tranquil melodies snapping into alarming countdowns as quick as you can shout, "Hey Bubba, I've got a whopper!"
Most impressive, though, is the use of the phone's vibration. You only get a slight pulse when the fish around you start biting at the lure, but once you successfully snag one of the little blighters your hand becomes the cradle of a miniature earthquake. It's gripping stuff and does a great job of making you feel like you're actually there.
Just like real life, Bass Fishing Mania requires some patience before you can catch anything other than small fry, but we can't recommend this challenging and rewarding experience highly enough. After all, good things come to those who bait.