Big John Games - WiiWare - 500 Nintendo Points (Out Now - North America)
Feeling they got it right the first time, Big John Games is back with Big Bass Arcade, this time on the WiiWare service. Having virtually no competition certainly worked in their favor with the DSiWare version. Not so here. With SEGA, Natsume, and XSEED already having pitched their own fishing simulations, the stakes are higher this time around. Does this title experience a lucky landing, or does it land on two feet just fine?
Big Bass Arcade is divided up into three gameplay modes. Free Fish allows you to just jump in and play on your own terms, Challenges offer alternate methods of play with options like Catch 'Em All, and finally, the Tournaments area serves the obvious purpose of offering more in the way of competition. The latter mode is locked at the outset, but it doesn't take long at all to make this available for play along with its sub-selections of two-stage and three-stage cups. If you're uncertain whether you want to fish like a pro or stick to the safer button choice, you can head on over to Tutorials to get two briefings on how to play using either method.
This fishing title features four different environments across the various modes, with three of them being locked from the start. In all cases, the brightness levels applied to the environments works very much to the game's benefit, resulting in some pretty attractive water effects and underwater scenery. It's especially nice seeing the reflection of fish on the surface of the water as you keep on the lookout for potential catches nearby. As good as these environments look, they still could've had some movement, like having the water wheel turning in the harbor level or maybe even having people walk along the boardwalk. As well, I picked up on some framerate reductions in one area on the first map and there was one point where the lure accidentally landed on an environment prop. Overall, though, with Big Bass Arcade being a downloadable title, it surely earns some praise in this department.
Prior to casting your lure, you can use the Up and Down buttons on the D-Pad to scroll through your lure toolbox on the left of the screen. As part of the screen display, you also have a timer, line tension meter, a counter for the number of fish you've caught, and the total weight accumulated from those fish. Players can gradually unlock unique lures to alter their strategy and add a bit of variety. Just like in the DSiWare release, I enjoyed using the Frog lure on the surface of the water since fish would often charge at it by surprise. Other lures include the Jerkbait which does a better job of holding the attention of the fish than most, and the Paddletail which stays close to the bottom of the lake. In all cases, whether the lure remains static or you're actually in the process of reeling it in, you can also shake the Wii Remote to jerk it around. However, every time it seemed like you had to do this again and again before you'd get some kind of feedback.
Once you've made your cast, the idea is to make a rotating motion with the Nunchuk in hand to bring it back to the boat. There were a couple times when the line would slowly reel in the line on its own just by having the Nunchuk pointed towards the Wii Remote on the right. Because I was unable to replicate this in one of my later sessions, I can't say for sure if this was an intentional alternative or just the controls playing tricks on me. Unfortunately, playing the way the developers want you to actually does hurt your wrist after a while. I found shaking the controller would actually produce the same effect as turning it, but whether or not the developers want you to play this way is another thing altogether. Big John Games made good use of the Wii Remote's speaker for this game by adding a continual reeling sound effect. It's been a while since it's been used like that, especially in downloadable titles.
Once something bites and you secure the line, the music will change and the game's action elements will start to surface. As your potential catch tries to avoid you by swimming in opposite directions, Rod Actions will appear on-screen directing you to twist the controller in four different ways so the fish doesn't escape. They've included some Rumble incorporation to add a bit of realism to the line tugs, but it's really minor and not taken further. In order for the game to read your motions properly, the Wii Remote must be in its flat, neutral position before making any kind of twisting action. Even then, there were several instances where I would twist left or right and it didn't register, or the game would automatically sense that I was pointing up when I had not yet moved the controller.
In all honesty, trying to counter movements in this way doesn't feel all that engaging, nor does player input feel immediate, which is something that can go a long way in immersing the player. Line tension is rarely ever a concern here, which is very different from the DSiWare release where you had to keep your eye on the meter and adapt on a regular basis. The tracks that are played during these scenarios are just alright, not adding much tensity to the situation and simply getting the job done. For a more realistic experience, I'd argue that they should've mapped the controls so that players could hold the Wii Remote face up and perhaps have a slightly different approach to the Rod Actions. As is, the system doesn't build excitement and it feels like more could have been done to give the game that extra boost of energy to shape the overall fun factor for the better.
On an unrelated point, I thought it was odd that a potential catch could be 18 feet away or at the bottom of the ocean floor, yet you're still able to pull it in no problem. Unless the on-screen character has extendable arms and an invisible net behind his back, I'm not sure how you're able to do this so easily.
Finally, the behaviour of the fish lacks realism in places. There were a couple times where a bass was on its way to the lure from a distance and then it stopped within two to four inches of the lure and completely swam off. In a similar case, a small jerk of the lure was enough to deter a fish from continuing the pursuit. For a game that strives for lifelike AI, some more touching up would've made that a more solid feature.
Ultimately, Big Bass Arcade comes up short of achieving greatness in a sadly unpopular genre. Those longing for anything more out of this than a satisfactory fix may be setting themselves up for disappointment as the allure wears off. For what it's worth, though, Big Bass Arcade doesn't suffer from any major issues, and despite needing some more refinement in its gameplay, it's still a pretty good buy.
20/30 - Good
Gameplay 6/10 - Setup isn't engaging or as exciting as you'd hope, needs more polish in several areas, controls aren't perfect, can hurt your wrist to play
Presentation 7/10 - Camera obstructions, decent music, visuals work great for the game, lacks an announcer, could've used more background movement
Enjoyment 3/5 - Fish AI is mostly good but not as realistic as it could've been, less of a need to adapt while playing, surprise factor employed
Extra Content 4/5 - Different challenges and tournament cups to play through, unlockable stages and lures, high scores, a good buy for only $5
Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System