If you’re the type of person who enjoys travelling for hours to the perfect locations, standing in the elements, hail or shine, attaching lines and lures to your rod and slippery bait on a hook, and waiting hours on end for a bite … then you’ll probably enjoy real fishing. Luckily for the rest of us, there’s Ice Lakes! I snapped onto this title (like my fishing line) swiftly, because, in reality, I do enjoy all those things mentioned above, until it comes time to actually do them. So, while I wait for that rare urge to reel me in, Ice Lakes has me covered.
It seems there are many others who share my feelings towards fishing, because Ice Lakes was quick to receive Greenlight status on Steam, taking only two weeks. The best way to describe it, it’s a sandbox fishing adventure, which simulates the atmosphere and experience of being an ice fisherman or woman (diversity rules! – Ed), and is the brainchild of Finnish developer Iceflake Studio.
The best way to get your bearings is to practice in the free roam mode. Just like in real life, if you go out there without a clue, you might become blasé about the whole idea. I found that dashing the rod left and right, to simulate the fish swimming through the water, was the best method to attract the fish, while occasionally removing the slush from the water, so the line could move more freely.
Jamming my finger down on the reel key was my biggest breakthrough, and once I had figured all that out, I was good to give the bigger challenges a go and make some real money. There is an element of strategy required if you want to seduce that huge river monster, or if you just want the biggest fish haul. Selecting the rod with the right balance of sensitivity and strength is just the beginning.
If I can break your immersion for just a second, Ice lakes uses the fish behaviour engine to control the swarm and artificial intelligence of each species. So using certain jigs, hooks, and bait will determine what fish you reel up. Learning the best locations, seasons and depths where the aquatic vertebrates dwell, will factor in on how successful your expedition will be. Then you’ll need to consider if a light drill, with its high speed and line breaking risk will be suitable, or if a heavy duty drill, that will allow you to bag the largest beasts, will give you the best opportunity to win.
Because time is a factor, during the competitions, you are usually given between thirty to forty-five minutes to reach your goals. Tournaments, on the other hand, have three consecutive competitions to determine a winner. These are a big ask, but fortunately, you can take a break between each round.
The detail on the fish is quite good, and the physics are solid. For me, navigating the map on foot is the most frustrating part. It’s best to use either the keyboard or mouse but not both combined, otherwise you’ll end up spinning in all directions, before you even line up in the path you want to take, which could run you into trouble if you have less than thirty seconds to make it back to the starting point in order to complete a competition.
If you find that the single player isn’t challenging enough for you, then take all the skills you’ve acquired thus far up to your friends in the thirty-two man multiplayer mode, which features all the competitions from the single player.
Although I haven’t seen the bear that is shown in the trailer, there are animals in the game which don’t do much other than run from you. I thought it might have thrown a spanner into the works if the animals could swipe your fish. It also would’ve been good to have, dare I say it, the dreaded quick time events to help emulate the fight of reeling in the tough fish. Nothing overboard, like a sequence of buttons presses, but rather just the single tapping of a key, maybe in combination with pulling back with the mouse to really help me feel the struggle.
Ice Lakes is the kind of game that many of us wouldn’t think twice about playing for hours on end. It has that ‘just one more fish’ feeling to it. Like my friend said, and I tend to agree, it’s my new solitaire. Jump into a free-roam map with a bit of time to kill, and pull up a few Zander or Whitefish for an extra few dollars. It all helps to get closer to that next best rod or drill.
I had a lot more fun than I thought I would. There is a real sense of achievement to be had with this fishing sim, once you get the hang of it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the West Coast, where I hear there is a ten kilo Salmon waiting with my name on it. Want one too? You can purchase Ice Lakes on Steam right now.
Tim ‘Meatbait’ Pearce is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2.