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Written by  :  Guy Chapman (2001)
Written on  :  Sep 28, 2006
Platform  :  Atari 2600
Rating  :  3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars

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A Hint Of Activision's Greatness.

The Good

When this game first came out, it was notable for two reasons: The graphics were more detailed and colorful than previous Atari fare, with hints of animation in the water, and the movements of the fish and shark. This was also a new genre for the Atari, as this was the first fishing title for the 2600.

The game also offered some variety by allowing players to capture fish of varying point scores depending on how deep the fisherman cast his line into the depths of the water. The fish that were worth the most were located at the bottom of the water, and obviously, the most difficult to get past the shark.

The game also featured a two-player mode, where two friends could compete against each other for the 99 points needed to win the game. Depending on the factors of the game, this usually could lead to some rousing competitions against each other, especially in those last few moments.

As far as control went, the joystick and button combo played well as a makeshift rod and reel, and did what the player needed to do.

The Bad

There were a few factors that have always retained a frustration factor in the game, especially for player one.

Due to the way the fish began, player two always had access to the deepest fish, which was worth the most points. The fish would be pulled to the surface, the re-spawn in the water on the player two side, allowing player two to pull the fish up enough for a sizable lead.

The shark also would tend to get territorial. The speed and patrol route would alternate for the shark which added challenge, but at the same time, there were moments where the shark simply would not leave a player's area. This again gave the other player time to not only rack up points, but without concern that their fish would be eaten. Challenge? Maybe. A little cheap? More likely.

Sound effects were also very limited. There was no music, and the only things that could be heard were catching the fish, the resulting point total, and the "chomp" of the shark. Due to the nature of the title, it was a very quiet game, but I suppose that's like real life, and it's better than hearing a bunch of rowdy, drunken old-timers.

The Bottom Line

Despite its issues with the AI, Fishing Derby was one of those fun, relaxing little games, that you could kill some time with. The game holds a soft spot for me as it was one of the first games released, and in looking at other games of the time, there was a sense of "realism" and movement to the look, however primitive it seems now.

It also shows a lot of promise for what Activision had in store for its later titles, and its potential as a third-party company. The game is very simple, but it did stand out in contrast to the flat look of most Atari games, and the characters (At least the shark) had hints of personality.

Fishing Derby remains one of my earlier gaming memories, and I still play it from time to time on the later compilations released. It's more a title of historical note now, as it pushed Activision into the limelight, but for me, it still has a hint of its nostalgic charm.