The Game: You (and a friend, in the two-player game) are sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the time float away, and trying to catch some dinner at the same time. There’s only one problem: apparently Roy Scheider led you to this fishin’ hole, because there’s a shark roaming the waters near the surface – and he’ll happily eat your fish (the shark, that is, not Roy Scheider) if you happen to reel them in while he’s facing you. Some of the fish will put up a mighty struggle when caught, which can also lead them to a date with the shark. The first to snag a hundred fishies wins. (Activision, 1982)
Memories: Put away the current gen fishing reel controllers, this is where the odd sport of video fishing began. Fishing Derby, one of Activision’s early offerings, is proof that, once upon a time, imagination dominated the game-making scene instead of marketing considerations reigning supreme.
In one-player mode, Fishing Derby is an exercise in sheer frustration – the computer player is such a pro, he probably has his own fishing show that airs on Sunday mornings between church shows. Your computerized opponent seems to be incapable of goofing up in any way. He is, in short, a pillar of pixellated piscean-procuring proficiency, whose skills you can scarcely hope to match.
Where Fishing Derby really excels, however, is in two-player mode. Here, the playing field is leveled, the shark will choose the juiciest morsels that both players have wriggling on the hook, and you’re not dealing with someone with computer reflexes. It’s one of the great early 2600 party games, perhaps overlooked with time due to its decidedly non-fantastical theme.