Windows - 2000
Description of Championship Bass Windows
I love fishing. As a small boy I spent time with a cane pole along the side of the Mississippi River in Louisiana. There's something about sitting around waiting for the red and white bobber to disappear in advance of a five minute battle with a catfish. You seem to forget the hour or two spent watching the bobber before all of this excitement happens. Plus, you're usually eating or reading a book, so it's a nice way to spend an early morning or early evening. My grandfather would take my brother and I fishing on his boat in Long Island Sound off of New Haven, Connecticut. This is where I first grew to love the sea. This love for the sea became a desire to become an officer in the US Navy. Later in life I lived off of the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina and was introduced to pier and surf fishing. My buddies and I would head for the pier early in the morning with all of the carbonated necessities of adult life, and spend the day relaxing, telling jokes, and catching a fish every now and then. The center event was the act of fishing, but there were all sorts of social interactions wrapped around it.
The PC sports hunting and fishing phenomenon is very popular if you wish to judge its popularity by sales numbers. There are a number of reasons why many of the PC gaming pundits are scratching their heads as they ponder why these games are so attractive to so many consumers. The first odd thing about this genre is that while I do love fishing, much of the enjoyment is found in the types of social interaction I describe in my first paragraph. Certainly there are professionals who actually compete and make money at this sport, but few people grow up aspiring to be the highest paid sports fisherman (fisherperson?). The second odd thing is that these games usually do not contain state of the art graphics, yet you rarely read complaints from the masses. The third odd thing is that these games are usually priced to move. The downturn in PC sports game prices can likely be traced to the popularity of the cheaply priced Deer Hunter series of games.
Championship Bass is an interesting title because it attempts to provide what one expects in hunting and fishing games but it adds a bit more depth and complexity than can be found in other such products. In an effort to set itself apart from the pack, EA Sportsadds a season option to this genre that adds a new twist to your regular fishing game. There are two central questions that must be answered in the affirmative if you are trying to decide whether or not to purchase Championship Bass. The first question is: Does this title simulate fishing in an acceptable manner? The second question is: Where is the fun in Championship Bass? If fishing is modeled correctly and the title is fun, then I would have no problems recommending that you purchase Championship Bass. Unfortunately, I think that while EA Sports does make some improvements in the fishing game genre, I'm still left scratching my head as I ponder who exactly would purchase a game like this?
Championship Bass is a fishing game that provides different venues for your entertainment. You can simply go on a fishing trip, play in a tournament, start a season in the Bass Challenge, or fish against other players on cyber lakes through the internet. You get to test your fishing skills on six lakes that simulate America's top tournament bass lakes. Buggs, Lanier, Mead, Rayburn, Table Rock, and Toho are included and if you recognize these as fine fishing lakes, then you are playing the right game. The lakes come complete with docks, bridges, submerged trees, cattails, and other areas where fish like to gather. You are presented with a map of a lake and you can choose where to initially begin your fishing experience.
Documentation included with the game is pretty sparse, but not unlike that found in other EA Sports titles. The manual is only 17 pages long and describes the game's basic functions. It even gives you basic tips about how to catch fish. There isn't a whole lot of game play complexity (in terms of the mechanics of how to play the game), so the manual length seemed appropriate. An in-program Pro Tips section helps with the finer points of fishing. What I liked about this section is that it was very easy to navigate through, explained what you needed to know, and could be accessed right in the game where you needed it the most. You could know nothing about fishing and become pretty good at Championship Bass by following the advice in this section. Pro Tips plus the manual make a nice information combination and explained all of the questions that I had about the game.
The interface is pretty intuitive and easy to use. An indicator marks the point on the lake where your line will enter the water and all you need to cast is to hit the appropriate controller button. Buttons on your controller control changing the drag on your reel and how you're reeling in your catch. These changes can be made quickly and easily. Trying out different lures and lines is accomplished on the main interface window and most items can be changed with one or two mouse clicks. You can choose between six different types of lures, seven types of worms, six colors, and four riggings. Rods are offered in the light, medium, and heavy weights and you can choose between 6 through 20 pound line. You control the movement of your boat on the main screen interface. You can also choose between fuel or electric engines and turn them on or off on the screen.
Some folks may take an issue with how fishing is modeled in Championship Bass. You get to choose how you are displayed on the screen. To fish, you place your entry cursor where you want to drop your lure in the water and simply hit the appropriate controller button. You then follow the activity surrounding your lure. If it is the type that goes underwater, then the camera follows it underwater. If it is the type that stays on the surface, then the camera follows the lure as it floats. This means that you can see where the most fish are and how they are behaving to your lure. This is not very realistic. You also do not have the option of switching off this camera angle and you always have to follow your lure. You cannot, for example, stay at the boat with your fisherman persona. PC fishing game purists (are there any?) may not like this representation.
The Bass Challenge and Tournament modes are what make Championship Bass a potentially interesting game. Bass Challenge involves fishing different lakes and winning these challenges based on the weight of the fish you catch within a certain time limit. This is sort of a season mode, but it is a season mode in a very arcade-like fashion. You win special lures, longer casts, and can catch special fish that give bonuses that will improve your chances in the next challenge round. You must average finishing in the top three in each challenge for a lake in order to advance to the next lake. This seems very Rally Championship-like in its execution. One nice feature in the challenges is that you start on a prep lake that is essentially a tutorial. You are given very limited choices to start with and then you gain greater access to tackle box items as you complete each challenge. Tournament mode lets you compete in a single timed competition on the lake of your choosing.
The graphics and sound are a very mixed bag. The fish graphics are pretty nice. They move and behave like real fish. You are limited to 640x480 resolution although you have the option of "low" verses "high" detail and distance. I couldn't find any explanation about what these settings actually do, but they seem to decrease the amount of above water detail and the number of fish you can see off in the distance. The shoreline looks fine from a distance. The water graphics look okay from afar, but once you move in closer to the water and shoreline you can see jagged edges and weird effects. The underwater plant life looks the worst because if you move in closer you can actually make out the outline of a square used as the background to draw the picture. The voices in the game are fine and worked very smoothly. The Pro Tips section talks to you and there is a commentator who lets you know when a fish strikes. The music is standard fare and there are pretty good ambient sounds.
You have a number of multiplayer options and they are fairly easy to use. I tried to use the Internet connection through EA Sports.com and discovered that it was a beta test for the service. Logging into the multiplayer area is pretty simple and I had no difficulty connecting. The main problem is that there were no players lurking in the chat areas at 2:00 PM on a Saturday. Maybe all of the fishing fans are out actually fishing, but you would expect more participation if the Internet mutliplayer feature is going to be popular. EA Sports will probably dangle some sort of monetary competition enticement in the future to promote the multiplayer features, so I would bet that the site will eventually take off.
As I look around the room to make sure nobody is reading this as I type it, I kind of had fun with this game. Let's just keep this between us because the last thing you want to be tagged with is the "hunting and fishing game lover" label. There isn't much demand among reviewers to handle these types of games and editors salivate when they find someone that enjoys them. Maybe it was due to my very low expectations, but I found myself drawn into the constant casting and watching the fish look at my lure and then move off or strike.
Reeling in your catch took some effort and finesse because you had to watch the reel gauge in order to see how much stress you were placing on the line. When the gauge turned red, you could snap the line if you didn't ease off or reduce the drag. You also had to set the hook when a fish struck your lure and if you didn't you would loose your fish. There's nothing more frustrating than watching a fish swim away. The Challenge series made you think about how you were fishing because the goals usually required that you make some decision about which lure you would use, where you would fish, and so on.
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