Starting out as a Game Jam entry a few years ago, Fishing Vacation has now found its way to the Switch. Offering a Game Boy style horror experience wrapped up in a fishing game, I was eager to check it out – especially as it was published by DreadXP, who have a fantastic record so far with their Switch releases.
Many thanks to DreadXP for the review code
The game starts out with you receiving an invitation from your friend to go fishing at their uncle’s cabin, just like you both used to do when you were younger. The power of nostalgia overwhelms you, making you agree on the spot – despite getting into trouble at work for having the audacity to have a weekend away.
What follows is a three day fishing trip comprised of sleeping and fishing. Well, mostly. There’s a locked basement that draws you into its depths, but you’ll only be able to get there if you can find a way in…
A very simple story, but there’s surprisingly a lot here considering the game only lasts for around half an hour or so. More details can be gleaned by interacting with objects in the cabin and speaking with your friend. Quite simple, but also pretty effective too as it fits nicely within that Game Boy aesthetic.
The gameplay itself is also pretty straightforward, but it (mostly) does the job it needs to. In the cabin there’s little to do aside from interacting with the things inside, but once you venture outside the bulk of the gameplay really begins.
As you start the first day, your friend will loan you some bait and you’ll go fishing while he teaches you how it works. There’s only three worms for you to practice with, but he’ll keep lending you more until you get to grips with the fundamentals. Essentially, you need to aim with the stick and cast your line with the A button. After seeing the telltale bob of the line, you pull it in and follow the button prompts to reel it in. After using all your bait, it’s time to go to bed until the next day.
Day 2 introduces a new minigame: hunting for bait. There’s not a lot to it aside from digging around and catching as many worms as you can within the time limit, but it’s still a fun little diversion before you go back to fishing. This will repeat on the third day, and then it’s time to (potentially) go home.
These fishing mechanics may be understandably quite rudimentary, but they’re also pleasing enough to use for the most part. Whilst rotating the stick gave me bad memories of Mario Party, it’s also not particularly demanding either. Fish you catch can be found in your logbook, and there’s plenty for you to find – especially if you go Night Fishing with your friend after listening to their ghost story.
Unfortunately, the game’s origin as a Game Jam does result in some issues that may not necessarily have been overlooked in a larger project. Notably, the fishing is not quite as well explained as it could be. The fishing mechanics are only partly explained, leaving you to guess that you need to specifically aim for the dark spots and have to press A when the fish snags your line, else you’ll lose a precious worm. Worst of all is that the game has no indicators to show that the fishing area is more than a single screen and you can actually pan the view to the side in order to find more fishing spots.
Whilst it is entirely possible to figure all this out on your own (like I did), it will likely be too late to get one of the proper endings by the time you do. Some of the requisites for nabbing a key require you to use those fishing spots, so if you don’t work out the mechanics by the second day then you’re pretty much tied into one of the simpler endings.
But then the game probably won’t take you much longer than half an hour to beat on your first playthrough, meaning that second playthrough won’t seem all that bad. There are five endings for you to see, although I’d argue that as long as you can uncover the secret of the cabin then you probably don’t need to seek out any more. Still, for little more than a euro, what more could you ask for?
Fishing Vacation may not be the longest fishing trip you’ll take, but for a bite-sized horror experience that costs about the same as a a cup of coffee, you can’t go far wrong. Just make sure you don’t put it down until you find out the cabin’s dark secret!