Reel Fishing: Master’s Challenge Review – Hook, Line, Stinker? (PS Vita)

Truth time? I’ve played a lot of Reel Fishing in my life. It pretty much went down in college when my roommate and I brought his Dreamcast to our apartment. We picked up Reel Fishing and the amazing fishing rod controller off eBay for somewhere around $30.

We sort of did it for the laughs back then. We figured we’d invite friends over, drink and play this silly fishing game a few times before moving on to other stuff.

We played it, and we were hooked… so to speak. This isn’t the greatest gaming franchise in the world, but it offers a classically arcade style of fishing that you won’t really find anywhere else. It’s addicting at its best, and super silly at its worst. Reel Fishing can be fun.

Reel Fishing meets a specific market head on, and it’s done so very well in the past. As time moves on and gamers demand more from their arcade sims, does Reel Fishing: Master’s Challenge stay up to task? Yes and no, really.

A Fishy Heart

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I have to applaud Natsume’s decision to keep the story in this game completely skippable. I stuck with it since I was actually reviewing it, but if you want to pass over the walls of text that tell the tale of a man returning to a cabin to fish in the footsteps of his father, you can.

I suggest you do, unless you like the idea of reading a story you’ll likely see late at night on Lifetime at some point in your life in between rounds of catching virtual bass. It’s cheesy, it’s exactly what you expect it to be and there’s no real reward for reading on, except maybe a little context for your seemingly endless casts.

It’s hard to knock the game’s story too much, as Natsume is right up front with the skip notification. It’s on the screen as the text keeps scrolling in, like they’re saying, “Hey, it’s cool, you can skip this. We get it. We’re doing it for tradition.” That’s fine by me.

Reely Simple Fishin’

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Yes, I meant to say “reely.” You’re lucky the puns are possibly stopping there, friendo. This could get a lot worse.

The fishing mechanics in Reel Fishing: Master’s Challenge are borderline too simplistic. You’re tasked with catching specific fish either with or without a time limit, you’re told which bait you should use, you buy your bait, you cast your line, you wait for a catch, you press up and you press circle a bunch while randomly following onscreen quick time events.

That’s it. That’s Reel Fishing in a nutshell. The challenge doesn’t really evolve much beyond fish being more elusive or having to catch more specific things in shorter times. There’s no evolution over the course of the game, and that means you’re catching style remains the same throughout.

My problem is that this feels like it was designed with smartphone or tablet gaming in mind. You use a screen tap or a button press to reel fish in, not a circular motion on one of the PS Vita’s analogue sticks. Everything can be done on the touchscreen. That’s fine, really, I don’t mind that option, but the game feels so shallow that the touchscreen interface seems like a future segue into smartphone porting.

Reel Fishing: Master’s Challenge plays like a smartphone port even though it’s only out of the PS Vita. I find that problematic, and I wanted more from this game in feeling.

Wading in Shallow Waters

Which gets right down to my problem with this game. It’s far from a bad effort. It works, the fishing feels fine, the story line is completely skippable and it looks okay.

The deepest thing the game offers is the customizable fish tanks back at your base cabin. You have a fresh water tank and a salt water tank, and you can buy decorations and toys for them as you dump a few of the fish you caught into them for some staring. You can even tap on the glass, though this strangely happens with an icon press and not actually tapping on the glass. Weird.

The actual progression boils down to earning money in order to buy better rods. The rods themselves aren’t customizeable after purchase, they’re just stronger or better in a set of ways.

Why not blow out that progression system and let players buy specific rods, reels and string? Let them buy equipment with unique perks instead of just slowly upping stats through spending money on uninteresting single rods. In a game releasing in 2015, it’s odd to me that the system is kept so simplistic and limiting, and that made me sort of sad as I was hoping to get addicted to Reel Fishing again.

Ask Cameron, folks. I literally messaged him wanting to review this.

Finally, and I know some of you readers don’t care about this, but I have to say that this is too shallow a package to warrant its price point. Reel Fishing: Master’s Challenge plays like a $15 game, but Natsume is selling it for $29.99. It’s digital only, too, so you’ll have to wait for a sale on this one.

If you’re a diehard for fishing games, I suppose this one is fine. It doesn’t have any magical qualities that will lure non-genre fans to the party, though. That’s okay too, I suppose.

A review code for Reel Fishing: Master’s Quest was provided by the publisher for the PS Vita. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.

  • Straightforward fishing
  • Easy to pick up and play
  • Tons of fish
  • More than a dozen locations
  • Two aquariums... TWO
  • Overpriced
  • Gameplay doesn't really evolve
  • Not enough customization
  • Feels like smartphone port
  • Gets boring, fast