And now for something completely different: The Blue Marlin, a deep-sea fishing simulator from Hot*B (markers of The Black Bass). Now, I'm sorry, but I've gotta ask this: Do we really need a deep-sea fishing simulator for the Nintendo? That's dubious. But -- and this is crucial -- do we need yet another platformer game or another scrolling shooter or another road race or more robot ballplayers? No, no, maybe and no! So a "dubious" wins it easily over a triple negative, and we proceedto be grateful just for the change of pace.
The Blue Marlin takes place over the course of four simulated days of tournaments; a "day" can take about an hour to play. The goal is, simply, to catch the biggest qualifying fish in each tournament. Not every fish counts: Marlins, swordfish and sailfish all qualify, but you won't get points for tuna, shark, barracuda and others.
Each day, you begin fishing in one of four general areas (Florida or any of three Hawaiian Island groupings). The weather's variable, but didn't seem to have much effect on the game. You cast off promptly at 8 am. Your boat can handle a dozen catches, and, at 4 pm, even if you're in the middle of a long and difficult fight, you cut bait and head back to dry land for the weigh-in.
The day's spent cruising around a small area with your line strength, line length, type of bait and depth of bait all set to your specifications. You look for schools of fish, whales or flocks of gulls; trawling your bait behind them usually reveals a marlin in pursuit. Your really have to learn the basics of landing these fish (most of which weigh more than you do, and have more muscles): pulling up on the rod, reeling in the slack, thumbing the reel and so on. Sometimes the hook isn't set well, which you really can't control, so you just have to be cautious not to put too much load on the line. Eventually, either you will tire out your prey - humorously represented by a close-up of the fish "sweating" -- or it will do the same to you.
From day to day, providing your performance impresses, the game will grant you greater muscle strength, body strength and other skills. Special situations pop up from time to time, requiring you to deal with nasty fish that are jumping wildly, trying to cut the line on your boat's propellers or have your reel or glove smoking. Patience and intelligence are rewarded with inredible catches: I landed several 800 pound marlins in the course of the tournament. A password feature allows you to stop playing at any time and resume the game later.
The graphics are without much animation or variety, but, like most good games, The Blue Marlin's strategy makes the graphics seem more secondary. The music is decent but too ever-present; game publishers need to learn that silence and quiet sound effects can sometimes be more effective accompaniment (especially in a game such as this one) than constant, repetitive jingles.
It may all sound pretty mundane, and compared to blasting aliens, I suppose it is. However, after an hour or so, I was "hooked" on The Blue Marlin. I liked the rhythm; you gently cruise for awhile, leisurely trying different lures and depths. Then there's a tug on the line and the excitement picks up. I felt truly frustrated with myself when making incorrect decisions, and just as satisfied for winning the tournament. (That was the game's one major drawback: I finished my first tournament after a few hours, and there was nothing left to do except start all over again and cruise different areas.) And the halibut is that I learned something in the process: Like video gaming, deep-sea fishing is one of the few sports you can enjoy playing sitting down.