One of the big complaints with fishing games of the past was the need to purchase a separate controller to accurately simulate the mechanics that are such a big part of the sport. The Nintendo Wii's unique control doesn't have that problem because the Wii Remote is a natural substitute for the traditional rod-and-reel controller. Unfortunately, the unresponsive controls and monotonous gameplay in Rapala Tournament Fishing, the first full-fledged fishing game to take advantage of the Wii Remote, don't make it worth a cast.
Pole, check. Tackle box, check. Lazy friend in the boat who does nothing but criticize you all day long, check.
Rapala has a number of gameplay modes to play through, including free fishing, arcade mode, and time trials, all of which are as straightforward as their names imply. The most compelling mode in the game is tournament mode. Here, you start out by creating a profile, picking an avatar from a handful of rugged-looking types, and entering in various tournament events. The tournaments are all grouped by type, such as weight challenges, length challenges, and so on. To move onto the next tournament in the line, you'll need to finish in the top 10 of all the events in the current tournament. The events are typically organized by fish species--such as a largemouth bass or crappie challenge--and, for the most part, the lakes and rivers you compete in will serve up the exact type of fish you want. In fact, only rarely will you haul up anything other than the exact species of fish you're looking for, though the size or weight of the fish don't always fit to the event requirements.
The controls in Rapala might seem overwhelming at first, but even nonfisherman will figure out the mechanics pretty quickly. To cast the line, you hold down the A button, make a casting motion with your arm, and let go of the A button near the top of your casting arc. Reeling in the line is as simple as moving the Nunchuk in a circular motion or pressing the A button. You can move the line either left, right, or back by moving the Wii Remote in the same direction and increase or decrease the drag on the line by pressing up or down on the D pad on the remote. There are also controls for driving your boat to various locations on the river or lake you are fishing. Both the fishing and boat controls have an alternate scheme if you are unhappy with the default. For the most part, the Wii's sensor picks up the more subtle motions of your hand; unfortunately, the on-screen motions you make are quite noticeably delayed, presenting a strange disconnect between your movement with the remote and what your angler is doing onscreen.
Once you've got a strike, it's a matter of reeling the fish into the boat, and while the controls make sense mechanically their unresponsive nature makes for a pretty unsatisfactory experience. While reeling with the A button or Nunchuck, you yank back the Wii Remote to pull the fish in quickly. You'll want to keep an eye on the tension indicator at the top of the screen; it indicates how much tension is on the line at any given moment. With bigger fish, you'll want to adjust your drag in order to prevent the fish from snapping the line. There are other things to consider, such as the action of your fishing pole (which determines just how much it will bend when the fish is close to the boat), which is only a big deal for the bigger fish found in the game. To bring larger fish into the boat, you'll need to complete a small netting minigame that has you first move a net over an onscreen fish icon then quickly enter in a button combination (such as 1, 2, B, A) to finally haul the fish into the boat.
Beyond the quirky controls, the biggest problem with Rapala Tournament Fishing is that it's at once too easy and too esoteric for either experienced fishing fans or newcomers to the genre. If you've never played a fishing game before, you will likely be a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of gear available to you from the start. There are different rods with varying action levels, different lines with their own characteristics, and the lures...well, the lures are an entirely different matter. Because this is a Rapala-sponsored fishing game, all of the lures in the game are Rapala-branded, which is probably a good thing for outdoor sporting fans who are familiar with the brand. However, for the newbie, this glut of lure models is incomprehensible at first, and the game doesn't do nearly a good enough job of explaining (or even hinting at) when and why you would want to use one lure over another. Granted, some of this can be figured out by trial and error, but a primer on lure tactics would be a welcome addition to this kind of game.
While most of the controls in Rapala feel more or less like fishing, that isn't always the case.