Thinking about buying the latest edition of Cabela Monster Bass Tournament Pro Extreme 3D for your angling-mad Uncle Barry this Christmas? Go ahead. Splendid idea. I'm sure he'll love it. On removing the wrapping paper, he's bound to beam...
...but inside he'll be cursing you for not choosing one of the shoal of more realistic, more interesting indy fishing sims.
Assuming Uncle Barry isn't some some sort of brazen graphics hussy he'd almost certainly have preferred something by Pishtech or Jason Spooner.
Jason Spooner is the chap behind FishSim2, one of the simmiest sims I've ever had the pleasure to ponder (and I've pondered Falcon 4.0, Dangerous Waters, and Steel Beasts Pro PE in my time).What makes FishSim2 so very simmy? Well, it's definitely not the visuals. Like peer products such as TrueFish and Real World Fly Fishing you fish an animated photograph rather than a polygonal pond or stream. What makes the 'game' so gloriously, reviewer-baitingly hardcore is that your success is largely determined by how much real-world fishing experience you've had. If you don't know what bait and tackle set-up will grab the attention of grayling in a Wiltshire stream on a warm summer evening, or tempt tench in a Cheshire lake on a cool rainy morning, you're going to catch bugger-all.
Jason's next project should be a lot more democratic. The almost complete Compleat Angler, will use Izaak Walton's famous tome as the basis for a series of instructional challenges designed to introduce players to the art and science of angling. There's a beta fragment available here. As it appears to be fishless only the truly curious should install.
Pishtech have come up with a nice solution to the whole 'knowledge is power' fishing sim conundrum. In the recently released VR Sportfishing you can call on a helpful guide for advice on tackle, probable fish locations, and such like. In 'free fishing' mode such consultations are costless, in tournaments they eat-up precious angling time.
Whatever the mode or difficulty setting, bites seem relatively easy to come by in VRS (play the demo and see for yourself). The challenge lies in locating and landing leviathans. The promise of catching something mantelpiece-shatteringly huge has kept me dabbling for the best part of a week, as has a rather neat dollar dynamic. Tournament wins and special tagged fish earn cash which can then be spent on better boats and kit. All the game really needs is a trophy room and a few European venues.
And if Uncle Barry isn't worth £20 there's always the impressively free, decidedly alien (for UK anglers at least) ice-fishing sim ProPilkki 2. The prospect of sitting motionless for hours over a small hole in Finnish lake ice has already attracted 300,000 downloaders.