|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: SIMS Co., Ltd.|
|Pub: Wired Productions|
|Release: January 29, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 544p|
by Shelby Reiches
Who is this game for?
This is one of those questions that game developers hope reviewers will never ask, because it indicates a product that is either so schizophrenic or unappealing that the reviewer can’t imagine just what audience it was intended to entertain. It’s especially problematic when the demographic for a title should be painfully obvious, like the demographic for Let’s Fish: Hooked On should be.
Let’s Fish! Hooked On, besides having a horrendously awkward title, is also a very awkward game. It’s not even the fun, quirky kind of awkward I associate with Japanese dating simulators and horse betting titles. It’s the kind of awkward that’s destined for the bargain bin, only to be purchased as a well-intentioned gift from an uninformed relative.
You might be thinking, “But Shelby! I enjoy freshwater fishing! Isn’t this game for people like me?” When I was growing up, my family spent a week every summer on an island up on Lake Vermillion in Minnesota. We spent our days out on the water, fishing for bass and pike. I have treasured memories of learning to bait my own hook and working out how to cast with an open-faced reel. Fish always tasted amazing when I caught them myself. I have many fond memories about fishing. I don’t have any fond memories about this game.
Hooked On could have brought at least a shadow of the joy of fishing to its players if its fishing was well-designed, but it isn’t. It uses the typical “time the oscillating bar to determine power” casting mechanic. Once the line is cast you can reel your lure in and jerk it around to further entice fish in the immediate vicinity. Should one happen to bite, you’ll have the chance to hook it and then, as in real life, begin the struggle of reeling it back in. Hooked On makes this last step wholly mindless, though.
In real life, bringing in a fish is a matter of reading what it’s doing. You have to move the rod so that the tension on the line isn’t too much for either the rod or the line to bear. Sometimes you even have to let out slack to prevent the line from snapping. The fish has to be tired-out to a degree if you hope to get it in the boat. In Hooked On, you can simply crank in the line at top speed and a “rod action” prompt will appear whenever the line is in danger of snapping. Swipe the screen, move the stick, or press the d-pad in the indicated direction and the danger is immediately averted. The window for “rod action” is so long and so forgiving, in fact, that you can simply rotate the stick as you reel in a fish and you’ll hit the prompts without fail.
The inclusion of additional lures attempts to add variety to the game. Each lure has multiple variations and is rated for different depths. There is also a smattering of fishing locales. Each local has different weather conditions and unique times of day. The new lures don’t do much to explain their benefits or behavior, though, and the locations are uninspired, unappealing, and don’t seem to have any disparity in how they function. The lures, meanwhile, behave differently, but it’s a moot point since depth is really your only concern. If you get the thing in front of a fish’s face and jiggle it around a bit, it will bite.
So the fishing is rote, underwhelming in scope, and ugly. Maybe this game is designed more with the RPG set in mind! To that end, there’s the World Tour mode. But the World Tour mode disappoints.
There are four characters you can play as. Three of whom have a friendship/romance/rivalry thing going on, though they’re all in the tournament for different reasons. There’s even a random magical girl as a playable character. Thematically, she’s the most unique of the bunch. There’s little to distinguish her fishing capabilities from anyone else’s, though.
Actually, there’s little to define each character on a gameplay level at all. Each character has their own starting skills and can level those skills up over the World Tour with points gained from time spent vying for skill in the tournament. Confusingly, nothing explains exactly what the skills and their upgraded counterparts actually do. They might be apparent on the HUD, but the skills don’t change the feel of the game in any significant manner.
The World Tour mode is a dry journey of repeatedly fishing against a time limit, striving to place well enough in all events that you top each league in turn. Story is incredibly scarce, which means the little bit of personality that Hooked On has is hardly ever on display. This is especially disappointing since the RPG/Sport hybrid is such a natural fit. It works for the Game Boy Color version of Mario Tennis, and the River King series has long combined fishing and RPG mechanics into a cohesive whole. In Hooked On, the fusion just feels lackluster, as though it was done as a matter of obligation rather than inspiration.