STAFF REVIEW of Rapala Fishing Frenzy (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Rapala Fishing Frenzy Box art There is nothing like waking up early on a Sunday morning and heading out to the local fishing lake or reservoir for some good old relaxation. Load up the tackle box with your favorite lures, baits and your rod and reel and you are set. Will today be the day you land that lunker that has been teasing you week in and week out? Well now you can get that same feeling minus the fresh air and price of gas of course while playing Activision latest release of Rapala Fishing Frenzy.

Past Rapala branded fishing games have been a bit on the less than desirable side and I was extremely skeptical going into this one for sure. Most of the titles have seemed more like an advertisement for Rapala gear and accessories than a game about fishing. But it seems that my skepticism may have been a bit premature as Fun Labs and Activision seem to have finally brought a decent fishing game to the market for the Xbox 360 console. Alas, there is still plenty of Rapala product plugging throughout the game, but it seems so much more subtle this time around than in the past.

I am going to get this off my chest now as its really the only major glaring issue I have with the game. Unfortunately I am displeased to inform you that the game has no multiplayer options...again. Sure, it finally has online leaderboards so you'll at least be able to compare your catches with others across the world, but honestly why is it so difficult to include a multiplayer aspect of the game. Until a fishing game comes along with online multiplayer options it really will not garner much excitement out of myself and many other virtual fishermen I know. My suggestion to any developer is to take a look at Pro Fishing Challenge for the original Xbox. It featured online play for up to 8 people and online leaderboards. Today's gamer is all about online play. How can this be left out of any game? Anyhow, thats my small rant so lets get to what makes this game a fairly good title when it comes to fishing titles.

Graphically the first thing you will notice is that the underwater environments and fish models are absolutely outstanding. I was in complete awe looking at the underwater scenery while also trying to concentrate on catching the fish struggling to get away. The fish are completely recognizable to their real life counterparts and seem to move in the same fashions as they would in real life. Any true life angler will probably be impressed when viewing this game graphically. The water is well done both on the surface and below the surface. As you have already probably guessed, the game is a below the water fishing game which means you'll see the complete surroundings as well as all the fish swimming around including small schools of bait fish. You'll actually get a sense of being underwater when in that perspective due to the color tones, dirt and debris floating in the water, etc.

At times the camera can be a little out of place, especially when a fish has taken interest in your bait and is moving in for the take. Most of the time you will not get a glimpse of the fish approaching your lure until its about to bite and chances of spinning the camera and figuring out which fish is showing interest is slim to none. So if you are trying to catch a specific fish, but another species is checking out your lure, you won't know until its to late basically. At times I have seen the camera go under the terrain of the lake into a world of infinity which can be quite annoying. Eventually it rights itself, but it is still a glaring graphical flaw in the game.

There are seven real life fishing lakes for you to fish. Each lake scenery contains a lot of extra scenery not really seen in a fishing game before such as floating boats at docks and piers and ducks floating in the water whom take off when approached or a lure is casted in their direction. The foliage, bridges, shadows and weather on each lake is done fantastically as well. You'll see the water pelting on the surface from above and below the water which adds some great realism to the game. You'll also be treated to 19 species of fish to catch ranging from your typical Bass species to several varieties of panfish, catfish, trout and perch. Each fish has its own online leaderboard as well, so you can check out where your lunkers stand against the world. As I stated, the fish models for each of the species are well rendered and very similar to their real life counterparts. You'll easily recognize most of these fish if you are a real life angler.

When it comes to sounds, there really isnt a whole lot to get excited about. You'll hear standard casting sounds, boat motor sounds, underwater sloshing, etc. The in game music could also use a bit of an upgrade, and you are probably better off just turning up the stereo or putting on the Ipod. Honestly though, its fishing and I really wouldn't know what kind of sounds could be added to make the game exciting. Sure the music tempo picks up when you hook a fish, but as I stated the music itself is a bit on the dull side and after a while you'll just not want to hear it anymore.

As I had mentioned, prior Rapala games were lackluster and less than desirable especially when it came to gameplay aspects. You had to many limitations and it just really wasn't all that much fun/ Well I am happy to say that a lot of those things have been addressed in this years game. Previously, you could not use a trolling motor to tweak your boats position. Well, now you can. Previously, you did not have a full range of motion to aim your angler to cast out your line. Now you have 180 degrees of range to cast off the bow of the boat. This is a huge plus, as last year you literally had to reposition your boat to try and hit certain spots you wanted to cast into. And of course you can motor around the lake in your 250hp bass boat. All of these actions are accomplished through a quick cycling of the dpad to the left or right. You'll also have access to a GPS which will show you the hotspots on the lake as well as a fish finder which shows you the fish under the water. You can gauge sizes of fish too by looking at the finder because the big ones really show up as large fish on the finder compared to the smaller and more regular sized fish.

Something else improved in this years game is the fishing itself. Not only are you trying to catch fish to add to your live well totals, but you are also going for high scores that accumulate as you pull off button combinations while reeling the fish in. It does have a bit of an arcade feel to it, especially with the button combo bonuses which give you certain boosts but are mostly there to increase your score. For instance, you'll get a Reel In Bonus, and it does seem to bring the fish in quickly for a few feet. The manula states that the Reel In Bonus will reel in the line 30% if the combo is entered correctly. The combos are fun but honestly they didnt seem to have much value in actually catching ths fish, but moreso just increasing your score. The button combo system does seem to break up any kind of boredom that may set in while pulling in a huge fish, but as stated the score means nothing unless its one of your goals you have to complete for the challenge at hand. Now if you miss some combos you risk losing the fish, so don't just ignore them. Especially the intital stick combo that hooks the fish. You must hit that one in order to land the fish.

While reeling in the fish, it seems that you will only need to be pushing the thumbstick left and right to counter fish movements, pulling the left trigger to reel in, and pulling the right trigger to let the line out. Thats about the extent of what it takes to catch a fish other than the occasional button combos thrown in. Each fish has a stamina meter which seems to be base don the type of fish and its size. The smaller the fish, the quicker the stamina goes down and you reel him in. The larger the fish, of course, the longer it takes you to reel him in and you'll also see a lot more button combos.

For those that enjoy various styles of casting, you will be sadly disappointed. There is only an overhand cast, but at least you can control the power and distance of the cast. There really isn't much to it. Just face in the direction you want to cast using the left thumbstick, and then pull the right thumbstick back for power. The further you pull the stick back, the more power is added to the cast. Push the right stick forward to cast and off goes your lure into the depths.

There are a ton of lures and equipment to choose from and you'll use quite a few different lures to catch target fish for each challenge or event. All of the popular Rapala lures are included in the game as well as the colors and sizes. There do seem to be some lures that seem to catch anything and everything, but to really catch the big lunkers you will have to have the right lure and color modes are fairly limited to Tournament Play, Open Fishing and Quick Play Challenges. In Tourney mode, you'll have 3 different competitions spanning across several lakes. Each competition is an increase in difficulty level. You begin with easy and work your way up to hard. The difference between difficulties seem to mostly be the button combos and fish that seems a little more elusive and picky when it comes to lure selection. The conditions you have to meet to beat each tourney also increase with difficulty. But I really didnt see any huge strides in difficulty between easy and hard. Open fishing allows you to go out and just fish any unlocked lake for whatever you like. And finally the Quick Play Challenges give you certain conditions that need to be met across each lake such as catching 5 large mouth bass, or scoring over 10,000 combo points total in a certain amount of time. There is also an Extras option which allows you to view your player statistics and your Angler's den which houses your accomplishments and tournament trophies.

Overall, this is a solid fishing game and has quite a bit of fun to offer for the virtual anglers out there. You'll find yourself sweating a bit to get those monster bass into the boat from time to time and find it pretty rewarding to watch your character lift the fish out of the water. The addition of the online leaderboards at least gives you something to compete against, but the lack of online multiplayer is a glaring issue and really needs to be addressed in the next version of the game. I have enjoyed the game thus far though, and will probably periodically toss it in the 360 just to try and catch a Top 10 fish or two for the online leaderboards. You can pick this title up for $40 in retail and to many folks that may be worth it, and I can't say it isn't really. If you enjoy virtual fishing than you should check this one out as the Rapala series made serious strides of improvement over previous versions.

This is a no brainer, but online multiplayer is a must and really needs to be added into this series. In this day and age of gaming its inexcusable for a title to ignore online aspects. I would like to see more characters, lakes and fish available for download in the near future.

Overall: 7.9 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.7 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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