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Big Bass Arcade - DSiWare Review

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Big Bass Arcade

DSiWare | Big John Games | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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23rd May 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

It's nice to see Big John Games aim for another niche on DSiWare with their new title, Big Bass Arcade. From time to time I do enjoy the odd game of fishing (SEGA Marine Fishing!) but since I had not experienced a fishing title on the DS, my expectations weren't high. As it turns out, Big Bass Arcade is a fun game that casual fishing fans would be satisfied with.

    The game features 10 different modes for you to get your fishing fix. First you have the three main Tournament Cups (Rookie, Pro and Legend) where you head to three different locations with the goal of placing Top 3; Catch 'em All, which tasks players to reel in all the fish in the lake; Golden Bass, where only this specific type of fish will count towards your score; and finally, you have a series of timed modes where you aim for a high score against the clock with an unlimited amount of fish. So early on, the game gives off the impression that there's quite a bit of content packed in to justify continued play sessions. 

    Starting out, you can give yourself a name for high-score tracking and select a male or a female character to represent you in the game. Upon selecting a gameplay mode, you'll need to select which of the two control schemes you'd like to use. Big Bass Arcade can either be played using the buttons on your DS system or the actual stylus. With the first control set, the +Control Pad is used to cast and control the movement of the line, while the reeling motions are mapped to the A and B Buttons (for normal and fast speeds respectively). With touch screen controls, everything I just described is controlled using the stylus. While some may see the control choices as just a matter of preference, ultimately the game is much more enjoyable when played using the stylus.

When you arrive on the scene, the +Control Pad will move the boat left and right as you get into position. You can also switch lures with the X Button to something that has a more suitable depth reach. There are a total of nine different lures to choose from, but most of these are locked when you first start playing. By catching designated amounts of bass across all game modes, you can unlock new lures to add some customization to the experience. I liked using the Plastic Worm for the different camera view, and I also enjoyed the Frog lure because of the way some fish would leap out of the water to try and bite onto it. 

    To keep you from guessing where all the good catches are, all the fish are displayed in red above the surface, revealing their exact positions. Because of the time restraints in the Tournament Cups, I was happy that the developers decided to do this; otherwise, luck might have been a dominating force here. Once you've decided on a casting point, you pull back on the reel to bring up a power meter and release it once the marker reaches the desired level. The casting animations were realistic, albeit they appear a little slow at first. For a game that's more arcade than simulation, some might conclude this sends a conflicting message. 

    Controlling the line while it is submerged underwater requires repeated tugs if you're looking to move it to one side or get it off the ground. This isn't the case when using the +Control Pad where it's clearly easier to move the lure from one side to the other with little to get used to. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes automatic though. It took a while for me to appreciate it but the AI in this game is very responsive. This does not mean that they're instantly attracted to lures as soon as they hit the water. You'll still have to do your part and shake lures to entice them by repeatedly pressing up or down. But I was happy to see that their level of intelligence doesn't take away from the experience. If anything, it minimizes time spent sitting around hoping fish will take the bait. 

Once you do get a bite, you'll have to quickly hook the fish onto the line securely by moving the reel upwards. Now this is the point where the action really starts up. Whether you're making circles with your stylus or holding buttons, you'll have to regularly move the line in different directions and release your grip to prevent the fish from getting away. From time to time, the game will sound specific directives at you for the purpose of countering efforts of resistance. Following through will actually reduce the line tension by a fraction to give you a bit of an advantage. With the large bass, you'll spend more time reeling them in because of how quickly you can snap the line if you get carried away. It's a lot easier to catch the smaller fish since regular line movements reduce line tension more.

    When you're participating in a Tournament, it's actually not that difficult to meet the qualifying weight requirement. It's more of a task to actually beat the other players on the leaderboard. You'll find that you need to be strategic about which bass you choose to target, especially when you hit the one-minute mark. Do you go for one big bass that you may not have time to reel in, or stick with a small fry that's practically a guaranteed catch? It may take a couple tries to place in the Top 3, but it's really not that difficult.

The game is most fun when you're engaging in the minute-long battles with the feisty fish. Especially so when playing the stylus since you have more control as you try to reel 'em in. Played for a few minutes at a time, you can get really into it. And much to its strength, the pick-up-and-play mechanics lend themselves to an inviting experience. Having said all that, I wouldn't say the so-called "adrenaline" is all there. Despite one or two setbacks in unlocking the Cups for play, I didn't find the game to be very challenging. In the back of my mind, when I hear the word "adrenaline" to describe a fishing game, I honestly would expect something of a faster pace than what's seen here. That's not to say the game can't be fun, but if you're expecting less of the realism and more of the fun arcade-type action seen in console fishing games, you may very well be disappointed. 

    From the Main Menu, players can check out their overall statistics in terms of the total number of bass caught, and how many lakes and lures have been unlocked. Additionally, all modes feature their own high-score tables that enable you to track your weigh-ins. I was surprised that the Catch 'em All mode still adopted a similar system instead of going by how fast you completed the task at hand. But to be honest, it doesn't really matter either way. After you complete the three cups, your play time definitely decreases. This is largely because the other modes feel lacking in the variety they aim to provide since you won't see yourself re-visiting these modes repeatedly unless you absolutely fall in love with the game. Thus, the incorporation of local leaderboards doesn't do a whole lot for the average player.

On the matter of presentation, the backgrounds for the different stages served their purpose, albeit most of them were very static and plain-looking. On a more positive note, though, I thought the animations for the fish were quite smooth. I did encounter two anomalies, though, but they weren't that significant. 

    When it comes to audio, the game uses the same three music tracks throughout the entire experience -- one for the results screen, one for the fish "battles" and a shared track for both the menus and the lake. It's too bad they weren't able to include separate tracks for each level. In keeping with the arcade feel, the game features two different announcers. One who informs you of how much time you have remaining and another that comments on your technique or the quality of your catch. I felt this feature was underutilized, but I suppose it's nice to have all the same. 

    All in all, Big Bass Arcade is pretty decent for $5. There are a few flaws, like the mislabeled level of "adrenaline" and the fact that the game won't hold your interest for as long as you might hope. But again, keep sessions limited to a few minutes at a time, and casual fishing fans will likely feel satisfied with this.

21/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Pick-up-and-play controls, highly responsive AI, different lures with varying attributes, adopts a casual-friendly pace 
Presentation 7/10 - Smooth camera and fish animations, average music and plain background visuals, underutilized potential with the announcers
Enjoyment 3/5 - Fun in spurts, some may long for more challenge, adrenaline factor isn't all there, other modes feel lacking after completing the tourneys
Extra Content 4/5 - Contains a bunch of modes but not all of them will add much additional playtime, unlockable lakes and lures, reasonable price

Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Big Bass Arcade
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