Let's go for a boat trip
Upon loading Action Bass, I was introduced the title screen via dodgy arcade-style music, which assured me that this hopefully wasn't going to the mind-numbing snore-a-thon I had previously anticipated. Two gameplay options awaited me, Challenge or Free mode. I assumed that Challenge mode was to be just that, a challenge, and so I headed for the Free fishing mode in order to ease myself into the game. I was then given a choice of four fictitious fishing areas with some cute names (Jungle Bass brought a smile to my face… do you see? Jungle? Bass? Arf!), but each area had no discernible difference as to how the game is played, except for changes in scenery (muddy banks or reeds? Ohhh… I just don't know!). So, after I chose my locale, I faced the literally life-or-death decision of which lure I wanted to use. None of the lures had any statistics in order to help newcomers to the sport decipher which was the most appropriate to the their situation, so after deliberating for several tense seconds, I chose the pretty orange one. Now here's where the exciting stuff really started to happen. Presented with a nicely modelled fella standing in his boat holding his rod aloft, I could rotate his field of vision, which was focussed on a small pointer, around the lake. The snag was that I could only rotate the casting angle left and right, and not nearer or farther. What this meant was that I could only cast as far as my rod would allow, and not choose precisely where in the lake I wanted to fish. This surely wouldn't have been a hard thing to implement, and although not exactly a reputation-shattering omission, it's something that I felt was missing that clearly shouldn't have been.
Waving your rod
Once I'd decided on which muddy bank I wanted to cast in the direction of, I tapped the X button to unleash my lethal Lure Of Death™, and the camera angle proceeded to leave the back of my hardy fisherman's head and dive into the water ready for me to experience some harsh bass-snagging action. It was set to be a delightfully tense experience if some of that "engaging atmosphere" I'd been tempted with really existed. But it didn't. My "technique" consisted of tapping the d-pad buttons now and again to snag on the line, and holding X to reel the lure in, closer to the boat. Snagging the line makes the lure wiggle under the water in order to catch the attention of the meandering bass. More often than not, you can manage to get a bite, and I guess that's why it's "action" bass, because I really wouldn't imagine that the fish would be quite so snappy in real world angling.
Reeling your biter in to the boat it simply a case of holding X until the line-tension meter reaches its limit, and then letting go of X to let the line relax a little whilst holding a d-pad button in order to not let the fish go anywhere. It's really as simple as that. The supposedly "heart-pounding" action is little more than a repetition of the proceedings the first time, and so any lasting appeal soon wears off worryingly fast, so I soon got bored and exited the free fishing mode. The thing that tickled me the most about this game was the aquarium function. Yes, that's right, you can actually enter a section of the game where you can observe all your catches swimming about in their watery paradise. Quite why on earth this was deemed entertaining is beyond me to the absolute extreme, and the way it's presented in its supposed seriousness only heightens the unintentional hilarity. I figured after repeating my obvious winning tactics a few times and to great success, I'd try my hand at the Challenge competition. In the Challenge mode the player must fill the requirements of the area in order to proceed. The requirements for each area differ; some you will have to finish amongst the top three with the highest amount of bass caught while in the more difficult challenges you must finish first. After passing each of the four areas of the Challenge mode the player will receive a new lure. After completing all of the areas the player will then unlock the Extra mode, which is essentially the same as the Challenge but much more difficult and with two new areas to fish.
A duck to water
Unfortunately, the prospect of collecting new lures and areas to fish offers little incentive to carry on playing through all of the challenges, and that's where Action Bass falls down massively - longevity. In a graphical sense, Action Bass is functional, if ever-so-slightly cheap looking, and it does that wonderful polygon-warping thing that the PSX is famous for brilliantly (this is a Bad Thing™, by the way) in the underwater sections, which cheapens the feel tenfold even though the fish themselves are nicely modelled and animated. The different fishing areas really offer little difference in the way you play your tactics; some lakes are marginally shallower, and other waters are a little cloudier. I suppose I shouldn't really expect a lot more from a game costing just a tenner, and I guess it's quite a bargain for angling enthusiasts in that respect, but I assumed that the idea of Action Bass is to attract a far wider audience than those stuck with their head in Carp World magazine. In the end, it's a bit of an anticlimax really, and I found myself asking "Is that it?" after only about an hours play (if that).
I wanted so much more from this initially promising arcade-style diversion from the norm. Unfortunately it wasn't to be.