Despite the relative obscurity of bass fishing as a competitive sport, a surprising number of good games have graced the genre. There's something soothing about patiently baiting those bigmouths that translates well into a casual gaming experience. Fortunately, Bassmaster: Legendary Lunkers is no exception. The game features deep, yet intuitive gameplay that feels like a genuine effort to simulate real-world fishing.
Bassmaster lets you fish for fun in a variety of hot spots or it lets you spend your time in tournament competition. The gameplay in both modes is fundamentally the same, and the only difference is that in tournament play you'll be ranked based on your catches--both in-game and on an online leaderboard.
After your fishing guide uses GPRS connectivity and the National Weather Service to check the weather in Lake Eufala, Alabama--where the game is set--you'll be asked to choose from nine different fishing nooks and from three types of lure. These choices are related, in that certain lures are better for certain spots. If you're in an area with deep water and lots of largemouth bottom-feeders, you may want to use a "crank" lure, which sinks as you reel it in. Likewise, if you're close to the shore, a "top" lure will best serve you, as it will attract fish swimming near the surface.
Your cast length is determined by a meter. It's never hard to get the maximum cast distance, but that's not always desirable. You'll want to cast far enough away from a school of fish so they don't get spooked by the lure's impact, though. At this point, you can either let out more line, allowing your lure to sink to the bottom (you must reel in to do this if you're using a crank lure), or you can reel it in. The trick is to make your lure look like a wounded, possibly dying fish. This is accomplished by mixing consistent reeling with occasional jerks on the line.
Fights with fish can be surprisingly epic. You'll have to watch for line tension and know the fastest way to tire out a fish. Typically, once you have a fish on, the best strategy is to reel continuously, only jerking your rod intermittently. When your fish is completely exhausted, a blue "Z" will appear above his head and he will cease his ineffectual wiggling. Ambitious players can spend their time seeking out the game's collection of rare bass to be displayed in a sort of trophy room. These fish seem to put up an even greater fight than the most common of the game's 13 included species.
Throughout this process, Bassmaster creates really convincing fishing noises. The sound made for a broken line almost makes losing a fish worthwhile, as its authenticity should be readily apparent to any seasoned fisherman.
While Bassmaster's graphics aren't quite on par with its excellent audio, they are perfectly adequate for the purposes of the game and above average for the mobile platform. The essentials are pretty much covered: the fish look like fish and your boat looks like a boat. One visual quirk is that it's difficult to gauge the size of a fish when it's in the water. Then again, that's true in a real fishing situation.
There are two ways to play tournament mode: you can go for three, five-minute sessions, with each minute representing an hour of fishing time, or you can choose to actually play the full five hours per day. In this latter mode, gameplay is much more casual. Bassmaster's GUI quits and the main application runs in the background. You're free to use your phone as normal. When you get a fish on, the game will prompt you for input, which is entered via menu choices, like "reel in" or "let out." This fight can be ended in just a few minutes or it can drag on for hours, depending on your choice. Occasionally, of course, you'll lose your fish entirely, either because your line tension completely slackened, or your line broke because the tension was too high. This can be crushing, especially if you've been working on a fight for a considerable length of time. The 1-to-1 time ratio mode is a neat idea, but most players will find that the compressed sessions are far easier to digest.
Bassmaster: Legendary Lunkers is a great fishing game by any standard. This type of game is already very well suited for mobile, and its developers took pains to ensure that it would be a positive experience for a variety of players. With its accurate modeling of fish behavior and its realistic, but accessible gameplay, Bassmaster has the potential to grow into a thriving fishing franchise on mobile.