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Review by: David Laprad
Published: July 20, 1998
The knock came, as it often does, in the morning. I opened the door, and there stood one of the finest humans on the face of the earth — the mail carrier. With unhurried deliberation, he handed me a small, square parcel that could contain just one thing — a game! I tore into it right then and there. What would it be? A 3D shooter? The latest RTS challenge? The possibilities were endless!
But wait. What was this? My eyes scanned the cover. The box contained an “interactive fishing simulation.” The mail carrier, who must have an affection for the sport, perked up and said, “Cool!” To me, though, this was an uncertain fate. Where was the latest 3D accelerated whack-a-mole? How could I continue without an alien intelligence to annihilate? I needed some meat on the plate! “Looks like you’re having fish tonight,” he said, walking off with a chuckle.
No problem, I thought. I have never touched a rod and reel, but computer games are about the thrill of unearthing new experiences. Preparations began for the following morning, when I planned to undertake the adventure. I installed the simulation, making sure all the equipment was in order, had a neighbor pull an old tackle hat out of moth balls, bought a case of root beer — I was determined not to drink and fish — and set the alarm for 4:00 a.m. I was going to do this right. As I kissed my wife good night, she warned me about possible inclimate weather, and told me to be careful should there be lightning. I sunk into the pillow with contentment, certain nothing was missing from the real-world experience.
When the alarm rang the next morning, I was on the game like a trout on a spinner. You begin by selecting one of six lakes. The difference between them rests in the stock and make-up. The best for beginners is Turtle Lake, which is small, contains a wide assortment of fish, and is simple to navigate. In comparison, Blue Lake is larger, more shallow, has lots of vegetation, and is ideal for large bassmouth fishing. The rest of the lakes offer the same degree of variance, though the experience of fishing is not too dissimilar from one lake to the next. You can also set weather conditions at this screen, though the options include just sun, rain, and cloud cover.
After picking a lake, it’s time to fish. Before casting, however, you will need to select a starting location. The navigation screen includes a satellite-like view of the lake with a small sprite representing your boat, and an electronic Fish Locator. You steer to a location with the four directional controls while looking for a hotspot on the locator. The locator identifies the depth of the fish (enabling you to choose the correct lure) and their closeness to the boat. If you press the down key after spotting a solid black fish sprite, your casts will land in good range of the fish.
You view the game from a top-down perspective, looking upon a single fisherman, his boat, and a large patch of prosaic blue that passes for water. On the boat is a rod locker, a tackle bag, and a livewell for storing catches. After you have chosen the right spot, the perfect rod and reel must be selected. There are three rods, including a spinning rod for light action, a spincast for medium action, and a robust bait casting rod for pulling in the big ones. This small selection covers the basics without requiring micromanagement of equipment.
You must also select the appropriate lure. There is a good selection, and each is suited for different lake conditions and fish. There are lures for shallow waters and deep waters, dark waters and clear areas, and ones that emulate live bait. It is supposed to be up to you to decide which lure to use, though the game spells out when to use each one. The combination of using the fish locator and lure descriptions negated all challenge. For example, the game explains Blue Lake contains a good population of hiding bass, then the lure descriptions recommend using the crayfish to catch bass. It was a simple equation that guaranteed success.
I must admit to being impressed with the ease of casting, and hooking and reeling in a fish. The most common manner for casting is clicking on the angler, then sliding the mouse forward and letting go. The angler will cast in the direction the mouse moves — just be sure to avoid weeds. The alternative involves clicking on the rod, then clicking where the cast should land. Once you get a hit, pulling down on the mouse or joystick sets the hook and grabs the fish. Pressing the left mouse button reels the fish in, and moving the mouse left and right controls the motions of the fisherman as he struggles to spool in dinner.
It is important to set the proper degree of drag, depending on the fight being put up. You want to catch the fish, but avoid having the line snap. Adjusting the drag is done with the number pad, though this is a little awkward to tune while reeling in a fish with the mouse. Still, it is critical to watch the tension indicator and make the proper adjustments. Once a fish has been reeled in, it can be placed in the livewell, which holds up to five fish, or tossed back.
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