Summer has finally gotten into full swing, and for a lot of folks there’s only one thing on their mind: fishing.  But not everyone is a member of the rod and reel set.  For those of us more comfortable with a PDA that a worm on a hook, Big Fish Games is offering up a title to bring out the inner angler in all of us, Reel Quest.

The gameplay in Reel Quest is ridiculously simple but still manages to offer up a decent amount of fun.  Sitting atop a lake you’ll cast a line into the water.  As soon as that line touches a fish you’ll start to reel your line back in.  You’ll then move your boat around to get as many fish on the line as possible before the line surfaces.  The more fish, the higher the score.  Get a high enough score in 2 minutes and you’ll complete the round. 

While a lot of games tend to use such simple concepts as a starting point, Reel Quest relies on it throughout it’s 50 levels.  This dependence on simplicity is both Reel Quest‘s biggest strength and its greatest weakness.

Despite the friendliness of the concept, the game is fairly fast-paced and frantic offering up a decent enough challenge that anyone can appreciate it.  As the game progresses you’ll discover a few tweaks to the formula.  Reeling in as many of the same type of fish as the first type that touch the line will result in a multiplier.  Between rounds you can buy special items like faster reels or attractive lures that will lessen the difficulty in the next stage.  Obstacles and objects both appear, such as electric eels or helpful fish food.  All of these twists definitely add new elements of fun to the gameplay, but at the same time they don’t take away from the fact that during the two or three hours it will take you to complete Reel Quest you’re doing little more than casting a line and reeling it in.

Visually the game is a weird grab bag of excellent and sub-par graphic design.  The fish are colorful, different, and offer a good deal of depth for such a simple title.  3D models were used for these, as well as for many of the obstacles.  Other visuals from in the water, like the in from squids, looked exceptional.  In contrast, the design of your character and their boat comes from the school of flat, cheap 2D flash art.  You’ll get to customize your appearance and boat at the beginning of the game, but the options you’re presented with are fairly limited.  The character designer feels like it was ripped straight from any number of cheap decade old flash games that are still floating around the internet.  Once the game begins, your horrendous 2D fisherman will be sitting atop a very pretty and well-fleshed out aquatopia below.  It’s an unsettling contrast, and does a lot to take away from the rest of the games great look.

The problem with Reel Quest is that, even though they keep tweaking the challenge in an attempt to keep things fresh, things just feel repetitive far too quickly.  Sure they add in new obstacles like ink-shooting squids and impassible jellyfish, but at the end of the day the game never really changes all that much.  Cast your line, catch some fish, and avoid the trash.  Lather, rinse and repeat for 50 levels.  And while the obstavles they add in do help to change things up a little, the game relies far too heavily on ramping up the difficulty throwing more and more trash on the screen rather than using these obstacles in new and unique ways.  It’s a shame too, because towards the end there are a handful of levels that do just that.  Had they flexed their creative muscles on level design 20 or 30 stages earlier, this might have been a very different review.

The trash isn’t the only thing that tends to clutter the screen making things difficult.  Suprisingly, the biggest problem by the end of the game is the sheer amount of fish.  Getting a high enough score to clear a level means working on a multiplier and gathering as many fish as possible, but by the end of the game the screen is so cluttered with fish that it’s nearly impossible to cast your line deep enough to grab more than a few fish off the surface.  It can be downright infuriating.  If only real fishermen had this problem.

While Reel Quest offers up a fairly fun diversion that’s easy to pick up, it grows old fairly quickly.  Despite this, there’s enough fun to be had here for those looking for a simple game that can be played in 5 minute spurts.  It’s not going to be for everyone, but for those looking to cast their line into the sea of casual gaming it’s a fairly accessible title that anyone should be able to reel in.  But just like a real fish, the longer you spend with your catch, the more you’ll notice the stink.