Impressions: Rapala We Fish

What with the Wii’s motion controls and all, you’d think that fishing titles on the system would be absolute successes, as the dual Remote + Nunchuk combination seem destined for casting and reeling.  Unfortunately, that’s just not the case with Rapala: We Fish. Taking the “We _______” approach via the Wii’s name as many games are apt to do these days, it’s a much different type of fishing game than you might be used to, and one that does not translate well to motion controls. They may have have good intentions with this game, but it surely needed a bit more work before being released.

From the start, you’ll take note that this is a very cartoony fishing game, in the vein of Harvest Moon or even games such as Go Play: Lumberjacks. You’ll even choose from a set of premade avatars in order to get started. I would have much preferred creating my own, but the premade seem to be trending these days. You’ll then need to choose a difficulty. The very beginner’s difficulty allows you four different stages, but after that, you’ll need to unlock anything beyond simply by playing, and I’m not sure you’ll even want to.

Right from the start, you’ll note that is a very different sort of fishing title. It’s less simulation than it is a race with other AI-controlled players in race kart-like boats to see who can catch the most fish in a predetermined amount of time. Essentially, you will zoom from the starting line to spots that you’re allowed to fish in, toss the Wii remote to cast, reel in with the Nunchuk, and land your big one. You’ll then need to go all the way back where you came from in order to score points for your haul. For a sport that rewards patience, this seems like a very strange design decision. You can only carry one fish, which is odd, and the constant racing back and forth detracted from the experience for me. While I do arcade-like sport titles, this racing seemed far too repetitive for my tastes.

As you zoom around each designated fishing zone, you’ll fill a small progress meter at the bottom of your screen. If you happen to fill yours before your competitors, then you’ve won the match. Once you’ve won, you can advance to the next stage of gameplay. There’s nothing too wrong with the way the actual game plays out, but the real mess lies with the handling of the controls.

Reeling in a fish is impossibly touchy and tricky. Hooking and reeling are presented in two kinds of perspectives, making it more than just a little difficult to judge how much slack you need to give the line or how much you need to fight to land the fish. You’re controlling this with the Nunchuk as well, and during the act of reeling in a fish, you’ll need to keep an eye on which direction to hold the Wii remote in. There are three different positions that you can hold it in in order to maximize your fish-catching, an it’s often difficult to keep an eye on that, reeling in, and the confusing perspectives, especially done with both controllers. After a while you should be able to get it down pat, but that’s nothing compared to the nightmare controlling your boat presents.

Your boat is controlled via the Wii remote. Rather than turning the remote on its site and holding it as you would a steering wheel, you must hold it out as if you’re changing channels on the TV and tilt it from side to side in order to turn left and right. Since you’re using the Nunchuk anyway, it shouldn’t have been a stretch to allow players to control their boats via the analog stick, much like we’ve seen in games such as No More Heroes. It’s absolutely absurd, and in the tight, confined spaces you’re relegated to in order to get from point A to point B, it costs you precious time you could be spending winning the race to deposit fish.

While there is a respectable amount of fish to catch and lures to use to attract said fish, the accuracy and realism of this version has dropped sharply compared to the previous entries into the Rapala series. We Fish is very much a more family-oriented title, and that is reflected everywhere from its box art to its cartoony avatars. With that said, the look is pleasing and actually more creative than some attempts at photo-realistic fish on the console.  It was also nice to have the ability to import your personal Mii characters into the action, a feature that more Wii developers should utilize.  Expect zany, whimsical fare accompanying big-headed characters and larger-than-life fish in this arcade-like atmosphere.

It really pains me to say that I was quite disappointed in Rapala: We Fish, as I really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, I can’t do much with the awkward control scheme and strange gameplay. I’d much rather get into a casual fishing game a la Harvest Moon than a hyper-realistic one, and I thought I’d find another shining example here.  While its admirable to see developers try new things with older genres – especially given the natural advantages of motion control – I think I’ll be sticking to River King for now, and hoping that Rapala’s next effort improves vastly on this one.

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