American Bass Challenge is the second fishing game to be released for the Game Boy Advance, and it has a decidedly different feel than its competition, Great Outdoor Games Bass 2002 from Konami. While Konami's entry in the genre has an easy-to-pick-up arcade feel, American Bass Challenge actually takes the other route and delivers some heavier simulation gameplay.
Fishing games have been around since the early days of the NES, and this game definitely has its roots firmly planted in the look and feel of those games. While this game looks significantly better than the early fishing games, it doesn't really do much to improve upon the gameplay found in those games. Apart from some new features and updated graphics and sound, you'd be pretty hard pressed to tell the difference between this game and the games in the Black Bass series.
A standard feature of fishing games is the free-fishing and tournament modes, and in the case of this game, there are two free-fishing modes: practice and quick fish. The only difference between the two is that in the quick-fish mode, a fishing spot and lure are selected for you. Tournament mode pits you against other fishermen to work your way up to the national tournament to become the undisputed champion. In addition to these modes, you can also gather up to four players via a link cable and take turns catching fish. An added plus to this feature is that you only need one copy of the game to provide the action.
This game's graphics are deceptive in that the game is more complex than it looks. American Bass Challenge has somewhat of a cartoon look to it, with bright, colorful graphics--not exactly what you might expect from a game that has a simulation feel to it, with features such as a fish finder and a GPS system and variables such as water temperature that truly have an effect on whether or not the fish will bite. These features ultimately get in the way of the gameplay, almost making things too complicated for a handheld game. Once you do get the hang of how the game plays, however, it does end up having some pick-up-and-play appeal.
Much like the fishing games of old, this game plays from a completely overhead view. After you select the lake you want to fish in, you take control of a boat in an attempt to find the best fishing spot. From there, you can cast your lure and try to catch the big one. In all, the game has five lakes, giving you a more than adequate amount of ground to cover to find the perfect fishing hole. When you add these factors in to the eight different types of lures, seven different styles of fishing, and 11 varieties of fish, you're left with a game that has a fair amount of depth.
American Bass Challenge may not have been the first fishing game for the Game Boy Advance, but it certainly is in a class of its own. If you're looking for a fishing game that comes pretty close to re-creating the actual sport, you'll be pleased with this game, provided you get past the cartoonlike graphics. For those looking for a game that you can pick up and play instantly, this game has that appeal, but only after you spend some time learning the controls and variables. Fans of arcade-style fishing may turn their noses up at the complexity of the game, but in the end, this is a solid game that will satiate avid anglers.