|System: X360, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Activision||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision Value Publishing||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 10, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
May 9, 2007 - Fishing games are a funny thing. To most gamers, they probably seem like an absolute waste of game development funding. To others, like me, fishing titles can be gaming nirvana. I remember playing Black Bass for the NES with my cousin for hours upon hours back in the day. We loved jigging bait, ripping lips, and hauling in lunker bass. It just never got old. In that same light, I remember fishing on my buddy Dave's couch my junior year at college. He had the Sega Dreamcast which had a controller that emulated an actual rod and reel. I used to get antsy at parties just thinking about going home to go trolling. Sadly, Rapala: Tournament Fishing is not one of these memorable titles. Throw it back before it fouls your gaming livewell.
Rapala: Tournament Fishing, as the name implies, is a fishing competition simulator. The game is sponsored by a number of important fishing equipment companies that have come together to create an interactive billboard. Sponsored games are usually suspect and this title follows suit. You will create a professional fisherman, enter him or her into tournaments and try to bring home trophy bass and other species. The mechanic of the game is simple, the formula is tried and true, but the execution in this particular title is weak. This is not Activision's best endeavor. I guess that's why the game was published under their discount title division, Activision Value Publishing. Sadly, this game has no value. This was a lackluster effort devoid of creativity and soul. Save your money for Kameo avatars.
The graphics are not good at all. The vast majority of this game is focused on underwater views which are awful. There is no sense of depth and location. Everything looks incredibly flat and featureless. Structure, such as rocks and plant life, looks blocky and crude. The fish species are realistically rendered when at the end of your line but at a distance they look like indistinguishable floating blobs. Additionally, it is very difficult to differentiate the sizes of fish unless they're truly large. Even fish that have several pounds of difference between them will look the same underwater. This dramatically takes away from the enjoyment. The most detailed and best rendered objects in the game were, of course, the Rapala lures. They looked great. The entire focus of this game is to show off the purdy pieces o' plastic. The in-game camera is trained exclusively on the lure. More times than not, some samurai fish will come out of nowhere and take your lure. The camera angles are so flat and wholly fixed upon the sponsor's widget that you won't see him coming. Above the water, the graphics improve greatly but are still mediocre even by the last generation's standard. This is an ugly game.
Gameplay and control, unfortunately, are the worst aspects of the title. I can usually live with poor graphics if gameplay is good and the controls are solid. Alas, you will become bored very quickly. This game is a real snoozer. I lump gameplay and controls together in Rapala's case due to the very nature of fishing games: there is never a story or variety of gameplay. That's why it is so crucial to have solid controls. The gamer needs to be able to cast, jig, and actively retrieve the lure in a realistic way so that he stays engaged. He needs to feel that he attracted the fish through skill not by happenstance. Casting in this game is atrocious. There is absolutely no skill involved, unlike real fishing. Another problem with the game is lure selection. Naturally, there are only Rapala lures from which to choose. This gets incredibly old. You will not be able to set up Carolina rigs, tote a night crawler, or pop a frog across the surface. Never discount the joy of having a bass rise to take a frog or a mouse pattern off the surface. There is no quick stripping surface action in the game and it suffers mightily from it. The game is far too focused on the marketing of lures and watercraft rather than gameplay and controls.
Sound quality and level selection are the best part of the game. Indeed, the sounds are realistic. The music is cheesy but not awful. The voice acting is basically non-existent. Despite the accuracy of the sounds, the drone of crank baits, your reel, and your boat's motor will get annoying. The amount of water you'll fish is impressive and the maps are true to life. However, these features by no means justify the game's purchase.
Rapala: Tournament Fishing is Activision's meager attempt at a fishing game. Many of the pieces are in place to make a nice game, but unfortunately the overall composition is poor at best. The game is a testament to the fact that highly sponsored titles are just marketing ploys and are not meant to be good games. Do yourself a favor, and let this one go. Save your time and money, and wait for a real fishing title to come out for the Xbox 360.
CCC Freelance Writer