Crankbait. Three coiler. Hissing Sid. Crystal waggler. Black crappie. Zipperfish.
If you can tell which are fishing terms and which come from Viz’s swearing dictionary, you’ve probably already got your eye on Ultimate Fishing Simulator. But you’d be wise to pause your purchase, because the console incarnation of this fishing sim leaves a lot to be desired.
It’s not that Ultimate Fishing Simulator is universally awful, but the game seems hellbent on stifling your enjoyment. True, fishing isn’t everyone’s idea of fun but sitting down, rod in hand (insert your own filthy joke here) and waiting for the fish to bite is a relaxing activity, whether you’re watching from the bank or using Ultimate Fishing Simulator‘s underwater camera.
“The game seems hellbent on stifling your enjoyment”
Even before you cast your line, you can roam around looking for the perfect place to cast your line from which is, in itself, a nicely chilled activity. Ultimate Fishing Simulator isn’t as pretty as it might be, partly because this is a console conversion of a three year old PC game, but the graphics do the job.
So you sit down and there’s a tug on your line. Quickly, you start to haul the fish in, careful not to hold the reel button so long at your line snaps. Okay, it’s a little weird that your left hand is invisible and, hence, the fishing rod appears to be reeling itself in, but you’re concentrating on your prize. Finally, victory! Throwing it back is an option but then you spot that people are willing to pay for your catch, so you hit the sell button and sit down to fish some more.
Five minutes later, you’re out of bait so it’s time to go to the shop and get some more. Wait… there’s no fishing shop, just a pop-up menu? That’s a little disappointing, less immersive than you might have hoped but still, time to stock up. Different bait attracts different fish, so you spring for some chunks of bread which costs.. $6 a chunk? Are they kidding?
“Fishing, a normally sedate, engrossing activity, has become a Sisyphean nightmare”
Still, you’ve not got a lot of choice, so you pay up and equip your new bait. Or rather, you try to. What actually happens is, since Ultimate Fishing Simulator insists on making you use a pointer, you go past the ‘equip’ button three times until you’re finally able to click it. A few minutes later, you’ve caught a few more fish caught a few but you’re ready to move on. You were flicking through the fishing maps early and, to your joy, you saw that you could go shark fishing. Awesome.
So you scroll over to the map and… it’s locked. You have to reach a specific skill level before you can access it. It’s about six skill levels above your current level, in fact. So, a little irritated, you decide to aim lower, to see if you can unlock the boating lake level; you’re already level 2, so level 3 shouldn’t be a stretch. In the mean time, you can go ice fishing, which sounds cool.
Except you can’t, because you haven’t spent the skill point to unlock the ice fishing ability; but, luckily, you’ve got one spare so you’re ready to go. When you’ve bought a $200 auger, that is. At this point, your mild frustration has turned into boiling rage; you wish there was a virtual shop, not so much for the immersion factor, but so you could throw the stupid $6 bread chunks in the shopkeeper’s face.
Fishing, a normally sedate, engrossing activity, has become a Sisyphean nightmare; instead of waiting patiently, appreciating your catch, you’re grumbling because your skill meter is rising so slowly. But, eventually you hit level 3 and, thoroughly ready to move on, you prepare to travel to the next fishery. At which point you learn that you need to spend $300 – aka the cost of 50 chunks of bread – to move on. Grinding your teeth, you go back, this time cursing each fish’s death for being worth so little.
“Ultimate Fishing Simulator has its share of flaws, but it’s the constant grind that really sinks this game”
Ultimate Fishing Simulator has its share of flaws, but it’s the constant grind that really sinks this game. Yes, real fishermen can spend thousands of pounds on tackle, but you can also sit down on the edge of a lake with a cheap rod and hope for the best. You might get some snooty looks, but no-one’s going to physically bar you from fishing because you’re not sufficiently adept.
Having to raise enough money to purchase a fishing licence does make sense, but when you combine this with the game’s insistence on gatekeeping levels according to your perceived skill, it sucks all the joy out of this virtual pastime. When you factor in what other fishing games have to offer – levels that are accessible from the start, better graphics, in-game sponsorship and beyond – Ultimate Fishing Simulator barely makes a splash.