Good news for desktop anglers: Anyone who’s ever dreamed of spending a sunny day on the lake, pole in hand, versus, say, sitting slumped over a desk in a tiny cubicle can appreciate what Fishing Craze has to offer. Occasional quirks and repetitious action aside, we’re confident even those who can’t tell a pike from a parakeet (let alone a pickerel or rainbow trout) will still fall for it hook, line and sinker.
The first thing that grabs you about the title – centered on continuously placing first, second or third in a series of ongoing tournaments against teams of competitors – its singular aesthetic. Blessed with gorgeous hand-drawn graphics and silky-smooth animation, you’ll love the cartoonish look and feel of the outing from its male/female pairs of heroes to multicolored fish sporting puffy faces and giant grins. Mere seconds are, accordingly, all it takes to convey the general mood of the tale, whose main goal – just keep winning, at the direct expense of competitors – is about as simplistic and lighthearted as the action itself.
Basically, after choosing a couple (e.g. Vince and Mary or Janice and Michael), you’ll pick a lake to cruise in your trusty rowboat. Floating beneath the waves, which you can navigate by moving horizontally with a left/right waggle of the mouse, wait a bevy of submarine critters. Catching the schools of fish which swim below is as easy as clicking the left mouse button, which causes your line and hook to raise and lower on command, hopefully snagging one of these moving targets in the process. Once pulled up to the surface, fish fly high in the air, at which point you’ll have to catch them to claim their associated point value.
A few points to note, however…
One – stages are timed, and to progress, you’ll have to meet certain ribbon goals (i.e. bronze, silver, gold) by reaching preset scores, placing a certain rank against competitors or outmaneuvering rivals, who sometimes appear on the same screen, and can steal airborne fish. Two – boats can only hold so many pounds of raw mackerel, and must be periodically emptied when full by returning to the dock where your partner waits. Three – it pays to collect power-up bearing bubbles, whether for an obstacle-smashing pickaxe or extra tokens (also awarded for retrieving treasures like pearls and ancient idols) usable between levels to buy additional boats (which move faster and hold varying cargo sizes) or added critter-attracting lures. And four – multiple hazards wait below, from electric eels that’ll shock you so hard you’ll see your own skeleton to swordfish that sever lines and whales that send you flying with a blast from their blowhole, all of which incapacitate you for a temporary, and potentially fatal, waiting period.
All told, the general setup – which sends you from watering holes themed after Hollywood, bucolic ranches, bustling farms, haunted manors and lush campgrounds – makes for an engaging time in short bursts. Unfortunately, the action tends to grate over long stretches, since you’re pretty much tasked with performing the same activities time and time again on multiple events at each backdrop.
On the bright side, there’s a constant influx of new challenges or twists, so you seldom feel as if you’re striving in vain. But various quirks, from graphical bugs that cause your boat to disappear or collision detection routines that make it hard to tell who’s entitled to which catch in mid-air tossups, do slightly undermine the experience. We’re also not particularly fond of the game’s musical score and sound effects either, which – during extended periods – can get on the nerves and lack overall variety.
Nonetheless, with multiple circuits (Amateur, Pro, Elite); numerous original challenges; good-looking presentation; and bevies of trophies to collect, let’s call a spade a spade – this is a standout production. As such, you’re encouraged to give Fishing Craze a whirl, as we’re confident arcade enthusiasts will enjoy it. The real question though, is how long they can do so in single stretches without feeling submerged in general monotony. And that, as they say, is a whole different kettle of, well, you know…