Graphics: It’s no Trophy Bass 3D, but IFBH isn’t anything to be ashamed of either, for that matter. All of the environments, from Lake Chase to Lake Butler are well designed and feature some pleasant environmental effects (mist, rain, etc) that add considerably to the feel of having woken up early to enjoy the lake. The fish themselves look great too, featuring some excellent animated movements as they zip about the lake in search of food or a quick escape from a fisherman’s hook. There are some frame rate hiccups at times (mainly during split screen modes), but both standard and underwater views are beautiful, so I see no reason not to forgive and forget.
Interface: The presentation is a bit bland, and the menus are plain, if usable. On the bright side the control scheme is simple enough to get the hang of, using basic joystick and button combinations, and for a fairly complex simulation, things are pretty intuitive. All in all, IFBH’s interface is highly functional, although no one would call it handsome.
Gameplay: Those who doubt the enjoyment that can be had from a fishing game would do well to test their theory upon IFBH, as it’s a highly entertaining simulation that reaches out to players of all skill levels. As with many good titles, the play model is simple enough to pick up in minutes, but a real challenge to master, and many hours of enjoyment are sure to be had from this one. Thanks to excellent AI, a large variety of equipment to choose from, an upgrade system, and a variety of play modes to enjoy, IFBH is so good I’d like to mount it on my wall. Now if they’d just add multiplayer….
Few good sound effects have been added to spice up the gameplay, although it’s not really a surprise when one considers the things being modeled. Sure, you get to hear the snap of the line as it’s whipped out over the water or the “Vroom!” of your boat, but more audio feedback from the environment would have been nice. Improvements are definitely welcome in this department, none the least of which would be some nice, spoken commentary.
Musical Score: Although most players would be inclined to think the gameplay would be the real turnoff in this title, I’d have to say it’s the musical score. Repetitive and bland tunes accompany the player on their outing and while they won’t have you pulling your hair out, they might leave you snoozing in your chair. Then again, some would say that’s an upside to the fishing experience.
Intelligence & Difficulty: As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a real challenge to hook a fish, as they’re crafty little buggers that behave in a realistic manner, running away with the slightest provocation. On top of that, learning the basics of the control scheme isn’t much trouble, but getting it fully down-pat is. Knowing what bait, rod, or other piece of equipment to use in each situation is a real science, and the talent only comes with practice. IFBH may not be a walk in the park, nor especially appealing to those looking for a quick outing on the lake, but it doesn’t try to rub your face in the mud either.
Overall: Much as I wasn’t expecting great things from a fishing game, let alone the first one to grace the Nintendo 64, In-Fisherman Bass Hunter 64 won me over with a delicate blend of gameplay and graphics that is perfect for armchair fishermen. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of room for improvement in a sequel if and when it comes, but what we’ve got so far is more than enough to tide us over until then. If fishing is your cup of tea, and vacation time is hard to come by, then I highly recommend you reel in a copy of this one.