Big Bass Arcade: No Limit Review (3DS eShop) – “A Cheap Flop”

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The Nintendo 3DS’s eShop platform seems perfect for delivering more casual, bite-sized games, and there’s certainly been no shortage of these since its inception. For those looking for a quick pick-up and play fishing game, there’s Big Bass Arcade: No Limit by Big John Games. The third in their line of fishing simulators for the Wii and DS, they’ve now taken the leap to the 3DS platform with 3D graphics and expanded gameplay mechanics. But is it worth playing, or should you throw this one back?

The basic premise of the game is – no shocker – selecting different locations (or levels) to fish in, moving your boat to find a good fishing spot, and trying to catch the biggest fish you can. The gameplay itself is probably best described as a grab-bag of mini-game concepts, and you may feel like you’re playing several separate games during even a single round of Big Bass Arcade. First, you need to position your boat in a spot where the fish are biting – but this is done by simply moving your boat left and right along a single axis. An arrow will change color from red to yellow to indicate how the fish are biting – the yellower, the better. Once you pick a spot, you use a power meter like those found in so many golfing games to determine how far you cast your line. Pressing the A button will start the meter, which will bounce between low power and full, and another press will lock it in and cast your line. From here, you need to start reeling in your line to lure nearby fish. An audio cue from the game’s announcer will let you know when a fish is close – and once he hooks on, the most intense portion of the gameplay begins. You need to keep reeling in the fish with enough strength to fight it, but the more the fish struggles, the more your tension meter will fill up. Pull too hard, and your line will break. Give too much slack, and the fish will get away. This hectic element is further exacerbated by an overlapped quick time event element. All the while you’re trying to reel the fish in, the announcer will require you to press one of four directions on the D-pad (or swipe that direction on the screen) to keep fighting your hooked fish. Once the fish gets close enough to your boat, you can press or swipe up to capture him. If you’re successful, the game will record the weight of your fish, and the gameplay starts over.

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This is basically how the game’s Free Fish mode plays out, and while the controls aren’t bad by any means – you can use the 3DS’s buttons or the touch screen to play – the gameplay does get repetitive pretty fast; for all the variety it offers, there’s very little cohesion between the gameplay elements. It can at times feel like someone is standing nearby, throwing you some new game to play every time a new thing happens, and it’s pretty jarring. There’s no sense of accomplishment once you figure the game’s controls out, though – it’s more like a barrier for entry than an element to master, so it comes down to the game’s different play modes to keep you engaged. It’s also no contest that the Wii version in the series has the best controls – the WiiMote’s motion controls make the game much more immersive, but Big John could only do so much with the 3DS platform.

However, Big John Games placed a surprising sense of progression into the game, as you’ll need different types of lures to catch different types of fish, and you’ll unlock additional lures by completing certain challenges in the game, such as catching a certain number of fish or an especially large fish from one breed. It’s actually a nice way to promote replay value, and it’s a good addition to the game. You’ll also need to complete a specific challenge to unlock the game’s tournament mode, so if nothing else, Big John made sure to set some goal for players to reach for.

Big Bass Arcade includes several gameplay modes to keep you busy with, aside from the previously-mentioned Free Fish mode, which allows you to fish for as long as you want with no restrictions. The game includes three challenge modes, requiring you to fish under certain conditions. No Limit has you catching as many fish as you can within the time limit, Bass Only will only credit you for any Bass that you catch, and Catch ‘Em All – coincidentally sharing Pokemon’s motto – similarly has you trying to catch every type of fish present in the stage, and while Red could take his sweet time, you only have 10 minutes to accomplish the feat. Catching 20 lbs. Of Bass in the Bass Only challenge will unlock the game’s Tournament mode, which sees you trying to score higher than your AI opponents by catching bigger and more uncommon fish. Each of these modes puts a spin on the game, but it boils down to the same simple gameplay concepts in each one, so the variety present is minuscule at best.

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It’s also worth noting that the game’s tutorial would be better described as a brief, in-your-face instruction manual. Rather than introducing gameplay elements to you at a slow, comfortable pace, the tutorial throws every single control at you one after another with no chance to test it until you’ve read through the whole thing. Given how simple the game is, it’s not even like the tutorial does much for the player, but the format it’s present with serves to confuse rather than teach. It’s still worth a quick look to acclimate yourself with the controls, but aside from that, it leaves a lot to be desired.

The game’s audio-visual details are actually its best and worst qualities. The game’s graphics are surprisingly decent for a downloadable game; fish show a surprising level of detail in their movements and behaviors; your lures behave like you’d expect, even down to tassels and flyaways moving and spinning as they glide through the water. Textures and other details in the graphics are competent, and overall it’s more than you’d expect in an eShop game. The 3D is also done quite well, and gives you a real sense of depth; you’ll feel how far your cast your line, and the water has a real sense of volume when looking around. However, one area that isn’t nearly as good is the game’s audio. The game’s soundtrack consists of only a few simple tracks – a repetitive guitar ditty at the menu screen, a string-plucker while fishing, and an aggressive electric guitar track when catching a fish. All of these songs are just a few seconds in length and play on a loop, and are mind-numbingly repetitive. Then there’s the sound effects; it’s not all bad, as the splashing noises when your lure hits the water are crisp and clear. Once you get a bite, though, the game’s sound effects devolve into childish, cartoony noises that are a complete departure from the rest of the game’s tone. You’ll hear uncharacteristically-deep swooshing noises as your tiny minnow struggles in the water, silly bumper noises as the fish rebels against you, and a high-pitched sound effect straight out of Looney Toons when your line is about to break. Finally, the game’s announcer speaks in an unsettling, creepy, quiet tone, and while I’m sure Big John was going for an announcer that makes you think of a relaxing day on the lake, his tone comes off as less fishing buddy, more Jason. There’s also a lack of variety in his speech – there’s pretty much just one thing he says for each gameplay event. As soon as you hear “he’s getting close…!”, you’ll know a fish is chasing your lure, as soon as you’re over that chill going down your spine. I see what the developer was going for, but a little foresight in their audio department would have done a lot for the game, making it an upshot rather than an anchor.

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Big Bass Arcade: No Limit tries to take the previous games in the series further, but in the end, contrary to its name, it comes off as a very limited experience. Gameplay is a repetitive jumble of mini-game concepts, the different challenge modes do little to expand on the game’s premise, and the sound effects are a major negative on the game’s experience. There are some positives to out-weigh the negatives, but the fact remains that there are better fishing games out there – even No Limit‘s predecessors. Unless you’re desperate for a 3D fishing experience on the go, it’s best to look elsewhere.

Overall Score: 5.5 out of 10 = Wait for a price drop…

A special thank you to Big John Games for providing us a review copy for Big Bass Arcade: No Limit!

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