It’s been about two years since the last Reel Fishing game was released for WiiWare, and you’d think that that was enough time to figure out how to improve on the formula. Unfortunately, that isn't at all what has happened. Instead, a series of games based on an activity as simple as fishing has somehow managed to sink deeper into the briny depths.
Reel Fishing Ocean Challenge is broken up into different challenges, all of which are based around catching certain fish of varying breed and size. Players are given a variety of tackle to choose from to make catching their fish easier, but no one should have any trouble mastering this game. In fact, Reel Fishing Ocean Challenge is so simple that it’s almost too easy.
To catch a fish, all you have to do is cast your line in the water and wait for one to take the bait. Once you've got a fish on your line, the next step is to reel it in. Displayed on the left side of the screen is a meter that gauges the tension on your line. Letting this tension get too high or too low will mean losing your fish, but the only penalty for losing your fish is having to cast again. While simplicity can be a good thing, in this instance it makes for a very dull and repetitive experience.
For such a straight-forward game, there's a plethora of control options available, both button and motion based. Moving and casting your rod can be done with the D-Pad (or Nunchuck thumb stick) and the A button, or you can choose to aim and cast using the Wii Remote’s motion controls. While motion controls seem like the obvious choice for a fishing game on the Wii, to say the the controls are broken is accurate, if not lenient. Aiming your Wii Remote left or right to change the direction of your rod simply doesn't work, and flicking the Remote forward at varying strengths to alter the distance of your cast is completely arbitrary. However quickly you flick the remote, your line seems to be cast out as far as it wants to go, completely independent of your will or desire. Reeling your line back in once you've got a fish hooked works just fine, but that’s just a matter of pressing and holding the A or B buttons.
Reel Fishing Ocean Challenge features 10 playable challenges, with an additional 20 that can be purchased as a package for 200 points. The real kicker is that the 20 “extra” levels are visible in the level selection menu, but you can only select them if you shell out the extra cash. Needless to say, 10 levels is underwhelming, and they can all be completed in under two hours. The good news is that levels are no longer timed, so there isn't any sense of urgency to power though them as quickly as possible. And just like Reel Fishing Challenge II, there is no free play mode, so the options that you’re left with if you really want to continue playing are to pay more, keep replaying the same challenges over and over, or turn your Wii off completely and go find a real lake with actual fish in it.
The presentation here is, again, much like Reel Fishing Challenge II in that the audio is quite accomplished while the visuals leave something to be desired. The soundtrack does well to set the tone for a relaxed fishing experience while your line is wading in the water. Conversely, when you've got a fish on your line, the music picks up and turns into a funky beat that attempts to match the excitement of actually struggling to land the big one. It seems as though the graphics department did not get the same memo, as all of the exterior shots of the water that you’re finishing in look grainy and unnatural, and the underwater bits tend to be unimaginative, with the same rocks and seaweed appearing over and over again.
There’s so much potential packed into the idea of a fishing game for the Wii, But Reel Fishing Ocean Challenge doesn’t take advantage of any of this. Faulty motion controls, uninspired gameplay, and unattractive visuals do nothing but hinder this game, and the fact that you have to pay more for “extra” content just to unlock levels that are already visible in the full game is offensive. If you’re looking for a satisfying fishing experience on the Wii, you’d be better off sticking with the original Reel Fishing Challenge instead.