One thing I’ve noticed, and quickly grown to dislike, about PC simulation games converted to console is that their menus are rarely redesigned. It’s painfully obvious they were originally designed with mouse controls in mind, while the text is usually too small for a typical living room TV.
Ultimate Fishing Simulator falls foul of this, even making the mistake of referencing mouse movement during its opening tutorial. Oh dear. Ill-fitting music dampens first impressions too, quite possibly sourced from the public domain. Ambient sounds would have been a better choice.
Thankfully, the basics are easy to pick up, some minor oversights aside. There’s just one mode to dive into – a lengthy single-player campaign spread across several fishing hotspots – and the controls are always outlined on screen in a pleasingly non-intrusive fashion.
Landing a fish requires little more than casting out with the right trigger, waiting a minute or two for a bite, and reeling in with the left trigger while steadily easing off to prevent a line break.
It’s possible to move freely while reeling, so if a fish puts up a fight and jettisons to the other side of a lake, you can simply walk closer. You don’t have to bring fish right up to the shore either – just close enough for a net. Given the subject matter, it’s surprisingly respectful of your time.
The starting equipment set-up (which includes a backpack full of bait) is enough to see you through the first three areas, so you don’t have to worry about tinkering with the default loadout either.
The biggest difference to other fishing games is that there’s no time limit. The structure is far looser as a result though, especially in the absence of tournaments and multiplayer.
Here, you’re simply landing fish and choosing whether to sell them for cash or exchange for an XP boost. The bigger the catch, the bigger the payout. Cash is needed to purchase licenses for new areas, which rise in price sharply, while XP unlocks new equipment and perks such as hunter vision and store discounts.
Speaking of equipment, there’s plenty to experiment with including various bait (marshmallows!), bite alarms, rods, reels, hooks, feeders and the tantalising prospect of owning a boat. The UI is rather unintuitive, however – when the time came to create a second loadout, we struggled with equipping different bait. Tiny text certainly didn’t help.
By letting you experiment freely and progress at your own pace, Ultimate Fishing Simulator also inadvertently allows you to make some costly mistakes. A good example: the second location is a frozen lake, requiring just a small outlay to access. What it doesn’t tell you is that you need not just the ice cutting tool too, but also the perk to be able to cut through ice.
It does at least forewarn if you’ve accidentally cast a line with no bait or have chosen an unsuitable hook size. These pointers are much apricated, further enforcing the fact that the game wants you to catch a cubic tonne of fish. It keeps track of your biggest trophies and the fight win/loose ratio too.
Ultimately, this is an ample timewaster which takes both a relaxed and open approach to virtual fishing. If you aren’t concerned about lack of challenge, or are perhaps intrigued at being able to progress at your own pace, strap on your waders and jump in. “It’s summertime and the living is easy…”