Place looks nice, but…
Closing off my first virtual day on the paradisal island of Penangkapan, I reflected on the happy circumstance of having taken this vacation alone. On the one hand, I could better enjoy the peaceful settings—thanks to the use of nature sounds over music and a pleasantly minimal HUD—that Fishing Resort offers. More worryingly, I thought, "Good God, if I had friends or family, would I feed them?" By sundown, I’d captured two small fries in the game’s starter tutorial, a clump of seaweed, and a piece of record-breaking driftwood (the record was for, um, length of previously-captured driftwood). Yes, the waters of Fishing Resort, for no particularly good (or rewarding) reason, make for a harsh mistress.
It might not seem so when you first start the game. The whole vacation experience—not just the fishing—is recreated: leave your bag in your hotel room, breathe in the salty air wafting through your balcony window, and head to the lobby. There you can register for activities/challenges via the bulletin board or strike out into a world of leisure, graphically akin to the Wii’s tie-in titles like Wii Sports. If you’re a free spirit, you can cast a line just about anywhere you see fit or take on some uninspired fetch quests from your fellow vacationers.
But there’s room for ambition here on Penangkapan. The exotic fish? They’re out there, as is the possibility of owning a yacht or managing an aquarium. Fishing is the way of the self-made, after all.
Fishing Resort makes mandatory use of the Nunchuk, which acts as the reel to your Wii-mote fishing rod. Once you get a bite, the challenge to your worth as a fisherman has two curveballs to it. You’ll have to reel in your catch at the right speed, keeping a stress meter away from the "fish got away" and "your line broke, stupid" extremities. Oh, and by "reel in", I mean move your Nunchuk in absolutely any way you are possessed to do; movement in a circular, reel-like fashion is purely for role-play (PS: I won’t judge). Your other task consists of matching your Wii-mote’s positioning to occasional on-screen prompts, adjusting your fishing rod to a low-stress position.
Pretty creative way to make a game out of grandpa’s sport, right? The fishing itself is actually not that bad, and pretty active—if grandma took it up she’d turn those flying squirrel triceps into unwavering steel.
But the thing is, everything around it is a hassle. Traveling—be it on foot, bike, or boat—soon loses its charm, especially as each of the island’s eight regions start to feel the same. And to have any measure of success, you’ll have to leverage a surprisingly granular system of fishing equipment. Wow.
Tackle = rod + reel + bait. If you’re after a specific fish (some have "bounties" on their scaly heads), you better know how big it is, what the bugger likes to eat, and where it likes to hang out. For a glimpse at just how granular we’re talking, here’s the description for the "Green Glory", a purchasable fishing lure: "Sinks well and attracts fast fish with its metallic design. Designed to attract large fish over 1.64ft in length." Despite its casual veneer, the mechanics of Fishing Resort seem like they might be more at home in Tom Clancy’s Seabass Ahoy! Don’t touch, I have copyright on that.
Text blurbs like the one above might make you think that the writers of Fishing Resort just wanted to run their pens a little, but the astounding thing is that each of those words does in fact have implications on gameplay. I know this because of the "Lure View Mode" available at shops, a simulated pool-room in which normally behind-the-scenes parameters for fish attraction and capture are divulged. Think of it as the room Morpheus first takes Neo within the Matrix, only cooler because we’re fishing, yo!
In the end, this on-paper depth doesn’t translate well to the fishing experience, and the game’s smiling aesthetic isn’t enough to save it. The learning curve is nearly flat, yet the curve for reward is wall-like. Maybe there are some people for which Fishing Resort is worthwhile—individuals of serious Zen. For the rest of us (secret: sometimes I yell at red traffic lights), there’s a quick and pleasant Wii experience called "Fishing". It’s one of the nine mini-games offered by Wii Play.