In attempting to craft a realistic fishing experience, Rapala Pro Bass Fishing got one thing exactly right: you'll be sitting around doing nothing for most of the time you play it. Unfortunately that's due to its almost insultingly lengthy load times, but we'll still give it some credit for unintentional verisimilitude.
The experience itself is broken into two main single-player modes, and one sorely underdeveloped two-player mode in which you and a friend sit on the couch seeing who can land the biggest fish, or more likely just compete to see who can sit still the longest without ejecting the disc and inserting New Super Mario Bros. U.
The majority of the game can be found in the tournament mode, which sees you entering various competitions to catch fish. You compete with an avatar of your own creation, though don't expect much in the way of customisation. You basically choose your name and gender, and any changes beyond that are limited to unlockable shirts and sunglasses. It's during this extremely simple character creation sequence that the game's plentiful and preposterously long loading times make themselves apparent — as well as a never-ending frame rate stutter — so get used to it, because it won't be going away.
You can choose from various competitions that arguably increase in difficulty as you advance — more on this in a moment — and it's your job to steer your boat to high-activity areas and reel in the biggest fish of the day. The problems begin immediately, though. As the game doesn't come with a paper manual you'll be totally reliant upon the on-screen instructions, which scroll far too quickly to read and consist often of relatively complicated guidance that you wouldn't be likely to figure out on your own — the digital manual does at least explain what the buttons do, but without any explanation or context, which sorely limits its usefulness. While this of course would only be a problem until you learn the controls for yourself, the speed and complexity of the instructions means you may actually have to play through multiple tournaments before you even know everything you're supposed to be doing.
Once you pilot your boat to a spot of your choosing you can use sonar to detect what fish are there; target fish for that competition are blue, for easy identification. Then, unfortunately, you actually have to cast the line, which introduces a mandatory waggle so pointless and frustrating it retroactively justifies every complaint anyone's ever had about the Wii. You press ZR and then flick the GamePad upward while releasing the button to cast. It may not sound so bad, but the controls are so unresponsive that you'll have to positively snap the GamePad to get it to do anything. Of course, it's quite likely that your face is above the controller, so we hope you enjoy violently jerking a block of thick plastic towards your face, because you'll be doing it a lot.
Hooking a fish is even worse. Not only does it require yet another violent jerk of the GamePad towards your nose and eyes, but you'll also have to tilt it left and right to keep the fish in the centre of the screen. While you'd expect smaller tilts to yield smaller adjustments, the fact is that Rapala Pro Bass Fishing seems to only recognise the most violent gestures, so you'll be slamming the controller from left to right repeatedly, in the hopes that the game detects something.
If you do land a fish you'll see where you stand on the leaderboards so far. This is where the game's difficulty should come in, as it's your job to reel in the biggest fish of the day. However, there's no skill to finding the bigger fish — it's all random. Bigger fish might be in one hotspot, or they might be in another; you choose them at random and so your potential for landing the fish is random. What's more you're competing against CPU fishers who are also reeling them in at random. This means that sometimes you'll only need a 5 pounder to win the tournament and other times you'll need 15; you just keep playing until you draw a higher random number than the CPU draws. That's not much fun.
There are also obnoxious announcers who bleat over your every move, repeating the same few sentences from the small pool of voice samples included with the game. This makes it even harder to concentrate on what you're doing — not to mention the text-based instructions sailing past — and the best part is that the samples aren't all of the same volume. Some of them are barely whispers and others positively boom out of your speakers. This means that if you turn the volume up to hear one thing they say, you'll likely be blown backward by the next.
The second mode is based around free fishing, and thankfully it's much quieter. However there's not much to do apart from coast around on a variety of lakes and fish at your leisure. While this could be relaxing fun, it suffers from all of the same control issues as the first mode, and that rips "fun" right out of the equation. There are also a series of challenge rings you can activate, which present you with optional mini-missions such as hitting targets with your cast. It's not fun.
Rapala Pro Bass Fishing proudly boasts that it contains a wide range of real-world equipment and locations. As far as we can tell, they've all been lovingly recreated in this virtual world, so mission accomplished we guess. We just wish the developer had focused its attention on providing a better game, as no amount of accurate detail can redeem this one.
Rapala Pro Bass Fishing seems to wish to coast on its attention to detail, but the stiff, unresponsive gameplay, annoying intrusions, terribly long loading times and seemingly broken controls make it all but impossible to appreciate the smaller things. If your first thought upon seeing the Wii U GamePad was "I can't wait to smash myself in the face repeatedly with that while trying to reel in an imaginary fish," then this is the game for you. Otherwise, you should absolutely let this one get away.