Rapala for Kinect
Weird fishing game that’s actually kind of fun once you get past the weirdness
Rapala for Kinect is the latest in a series of fishing simulation games by Activision. The Kinect version adds full motion gestures for casting, hooking, and reeling in fish. Some parts are surprisingly realistic, while other parts are obviously there to make the game accessible to kids. And surprisingly, you can get a little workout from the game.
When I saw the list of games that were eligible for Microsoft’s Kinect fitness promotion, there were the expected titles like Nike+Kinect, MiCoach, and EA Sports Active 2. But there was one that was a little unexpected: Rapala for Kinect. I’ve always known that Rapala was a fishing simulation game, but could it really be considered a “fitness game”?
Well, the answer is, kind of.
The first thing I’ll say about Rapala for Kinect is that it’s…unique. While every Kinect developer is putting out yet another dancing game or yet karate game, it’s interesting to see Activision coming up with a fishing game. It’s perhaps the strangest use for the Kinect since Michael Phelps: Push the Limit.
When you start Rapala for Kinect you see a menu of a couple options : Arcade Mode, Boat Race Mode, Fish Face Creator, and Aquarium. Like most Kinect games, menu selection can be annoying as you try to get your hand just right to hover over your selection and swipe. Half the time I found myself having to swipe again and again to get it.
Arcade Mode is the main mode of playing the game. You start by choosing a body of water to do your fishing in, starting with a quiet lake called 10 Mile Gorge, and then once you master that one you’ll unlock bigger lakes with bigger fish, from Big Bog Swamp to Lake Lauri to Lake Kitchigoomee to the Northern Lights River. You can select one of their pre-made characters, or you can select your Xbox avatar to do the fishing.
You start out by seeing yourself in a boat overlooking the water, and you can see faint outlines of the fish swimming all around you; as you play the game you’ll start to recognize fish by their size and shape. You use your left hand to position a lure that indicates where to cast, and then swipe your right hand to cast.
The scene switches to under water, where you need to do “pulling” motions to move your lure. Surely enough, in time a fish will approach it. When the fish bites, just as in real life you have to hook it by jerking your arms in the right direction (as indicated by a silhouette of your avatar). Time it right and you’ve hooked your fish and the fight begins.
Fighting the fish is an interesting exercise. Arrows will appear on the screen that point in all directions–you need to position your hands to match the angle and direction of the arrows and then hold it in place until the arrow fills in. It’s tough to master at first, but I’ve found that clasping my two hands together and pointing them in the direction of the arrow (from time to time pulling inwards) is the best approach.
It’s actually a surprisingly realistic simulation, as the arrow corresponds to the direction the fish is pulling your line, and just like in real life you have to adjust for every which way the fish is pulling you. The arrow will flash to the left, to the right, up and down, and in some cases even move. The end result feels a lot like you’re really fighting the fish.
To give the game a little variety (and no doubt make it more accessible to kids), there are a few silly options to land the fish. After fighting the fish for a while you’ll see arrows where you can choose “Easy”, “Hard” or “Hold”.
With “Easy” you either slap the fish 10 times or punch it 10 times. With “Hard”, the commentator will shouts at you different poses to strike (ninja! salute! sumo!), and each time you strike the post the fish tires out some more. Neither are very realistic, but on the other hand, both are where you get a decent workout and challenge. The “hold” option lets you continue to fight the fish and rack up points.
Fail to hold the right position or do the right move for the right period of time, and you’ll lose the fish. Go through the sequence correctly and you’ll land you fish. You’ll see a picture of your avatar netting the fish, with the fish type and weight listed. Each fish you catch goes into your permanent “aquarium” that you can access from the main menu.
Arcade mode is set up like a fishing derby with you competing against three computer players (you can also play with another human beside you). In order to proceed from level to level, you need to meet certain challenges, such as coming in at a certain place in the standings and landing certain kinds of “objective” fish.
Most of the fish battles last about a minute or so, but battles with “boss fishes” can last upwards of 5 minutes. You get a surprisingly good workout; it’s not the sustained 20-30 minutes of an elevated heart rate you really need to lose weight or improve your heart health, but the short bursts can get moderately intense.
In between fishing derbies there’s a mini-game where you need to race your speedboat; in the process, you can collect coins as well as grab enhancements that’ll help you in your fishing. The mini-game worked a lot like any other Kinect driving game where you hold your hands in front of you and steer–the control is not especially smooth but once you get used to it it’s moderately fun. If you really enjoy it, you can select “Boat Race Mode” from the main menu.
Rapala for Kinect overall is a fun game, but a few things sullied my overall experience.
First, there were certain gestures that no matter what I did, the system would never recognize me. One example is the “Sumo” pose when you select “Hard”. I’d pose in the precise pose they flashed on the screen, but for whatever reason it would never recognize me. There’s also a point where the game shouts “Bring It In” and tells you to pose in a certain way, but for the life of me I couldn’t get it to work for the longest time (I finally realized that you had to clasp both hands together, something that wasn’t at all clear in the on-screen example). Even when I tried to follow the arrows in the regular fishing mode, I never felt completely in control. When glitches like this happened, you’d often end up losing the fish and in many cases the tournament due to no fault of your own, which was definitely frustrating.
I’m not sure if this is a phenomenon just with my Kinect, but I also noticed that my Kinect would go off-center again and again, requiring me to launch the Kinect Tuner many times.
Another gripe I have about the game is the graphics. The detail on the individual species of fish was pretty good, and I actually appreciated that I could be educated so much about a great variety of fish from different kinds of waters all over the world. But overall, the game as a whole was a bit too cartoony and unrealistic for my tastes. With the great graphics capabilities of the Xbox 360, this seems like a waste. I would have liked to see much more realistic imagery and graphics.
Still, I have to admit that despite these glitches, there were moments that I really enjoyed this game. I did find myself sweating and getting a light to moderate workout. Because the game aims to be kid-friendly, scoring is generous and challenges are overall pretty easy to master after just a few times playing. If you’re a fishing nut and want to experience the feeling of being out on the water, while getting a little exercise to boot, I’d say Rapala for Kinect is worth considering, as long as you go in with lower expectations.