There are times where games overly complicate matters, or just take too long to get you into the game; however, Catch & Release realizes that sometimes, you just want a simplistic approach and a touch of relaxation. As the name implies, the game focuses on fishing, more specifically, placing you on a mountain lake surrounded by majestic creatures of nature and trees as far as the eye can see. As a VR exclusive title, on Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, the vibrant colors and crystal clear water pops right in front of your eyes.
Alone in a rowboat, Catch & Release is the perfect VR relaxing title after a stressful week at work. Although you are freely able to explore the lake at your own pace, the game does provide challenges/objectives for you to complete in your journal. It’s generally a good idea to follow along, as it will take you through the basic game mechanics, but it is also how you unlock new items, such as a weighing scale, and new types of bait. While I can’t speak to the tracking in the PSVR version of the game, which uses two PlayStation Move controls, the game had no problems tracking the Oculus Touch controllers. My office does have a three Oculus sensor setup, allowing me to entirely turn around without any loss in tracking or stuttering of your virtual hands. Although I had no problems turning around in the boat with a full 360 degree Oculus setup, Catch & Release does offer turning options on both hands, in case you want to play the game in a seated position.
Once grabbed, the fishing rod will remain in your grasp until placed on either of the fishing rod holders on the left or right side of the rowboat. Holding down a button lets you release the line, and it can be reeled in by using the opposite Touch controller. Once you found a suitable location, you’ll row yourself around the lake; you need to attach bait to your hook. Unwind your line, so it is within your grasp, and once completed you are ready to cast off. Naturally, you can just drop your line directly outside your boat, but I found it thoroughly satisfying casting out as far as possible. Not only does it feel natural, but it is almost therapeutic. You can see a dark outline under the waterline, representing the type and size of the fish. See the bobble dip between the surface, and you got yourself a bite.
Knowing when to reel and when to wait is the key to ensuring your line doesn’t break. Trying to reel it in too swiftly can be a costly mistake. It is important to realize you are facing off against a living creature that has no idea what is happening and will do everything it can to escape. Tiring your catch is essential, but at the same time, you need to reel in the line without causing too much tension. Too much, and snap, your line will break, and you’ll go hungry. The gameplay loop involves catching fish, weighing them for more accurate pricing of your catch, and either tossing it in your cooler packed with ice or back in the lake. Depending upon the size and type (bigger is always better), you’ll earn money to spend in the catalog to purchase new kinds of bait, drinks, sandwiches, improved fishing rods, and more. There is a radio in the rowboat in case you get tired of the sounds of nature, containing multiple stations to choose from with a wide variety of musical genres.
Catch & Release is the epitome of a relaxing VR fishing experience. It feels so great to unwind on a lake in the middle of nowhere and fish for an afternoon, without worrying about mosquitoes. The single location in the game is large enough that I never grew tired. It’s almost harkened back to the days where families would return year after year to their favorite vacation spot.
Note: Catch & Release was reviewed based on a digital Oculus Rift copy of the game, provided by the publisher.