The latest film-to-game adaptation from Acitivision, Dreamwork's Shark Tale
, turned out slightly difficult to review. Not from any considerable challenge game wise, but because it does so many things right
. It's a kiddy game that ended up being pretty good. This may come as no surprise to those who've been following Acitvation's recent string of big-license games such as X-Men Legends
and Spider Man 2
Each game took the best elements from their respective sources and made the best of them. The big question being: does Shark Tale fall into this category. Has Activision juiced the licensed for all its worth? Most important, does Shark Tale offer hours upon hours of aquatic bliss?
The answer, frustratingly enough, is yes and no. While Shark Tale escapes the fate of most big-license games (not to mention the fate of countless mediocre kiddy games), it still fails in a few key areas. The first of which is gameplay. Regardless of how polished a game may be, either visually or aurally or both, it's all for not if the actual game suffers from a lack of attention.
And this is exactly what ends up poking holes in Shark Tale's otherwise mighty hull. It's pretty and it sounds great. But what's the point when the game itself lacks that certain dynamic separating a good game from a great one?
For those rusty on their fish-film trivia, there have been two major theatrical releases in the last year. Pixar released the smash-hit Finding Nemo in May 2003 and now Dreamworks has just released its own brand of oceanic hijinks with Shark Tale. In Shark Tale, you'll assume the role of Oscar, a fast-talking fish who ends up in trouble when he takes credit for the accidental-death of a mob boss's son. It goes without saying Oscar spends much of his time in the movie (and the game) avoiding behemoth mob sharks of the literal variety.
Instead of focusing on one style of play, Shark Tale adopts a far more eclectic approach. The game splits into 25 chapters. Each chapter falls under four basic modes: Race, Adventure, Fight and Dance. Each chapter in the game, of which there are 25, boasts three objectives: one primary and two secondary. Completing all three raises Oscar's fame, represented by a flaming bar on the upper left hand of the screen.
The game starts off on a race, where you'll need to guide Oscar as he attempts to escape the first of many shark attacks. Instead of swimming through the ocean depths at your fancy, Shark Tale glues Oscar on a predefined route. All you need to do is follow the green arrows that pop up on the screen prior to key moments to avoid being eaten.
Not entirely thrilling. Then again, it's just a starter sequence; an appetizer of what's to come. After escaping the shark, Oscar gets thrown out of his apartment in Reef City. His land lady decides to hurl all his belongings out the window. In order to save them, you need to swim around each item as it falls to slow them down. This section, thankfully, is a bit more interactive than the initial race. You need to dart back and forth across the screen saving lava lamps and various knick-knacks before they shatter on the ocean floor. It's fun, short and not too challenging.
One of the most hyped aspects of the game involves Dance Dance Revolution style dance numbers. The first of which comes early in the game, where Oscar busts out with an impromptu dance while being interviewed by Katy Current (Ha!) Just as in DDR, and more recently Donkey Konga, you'll need to press the appropriate directional pads in rhythm to the music, MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" in this case.
Arrows float by in a circular pattern around Oscar, and you're rewarded with a specific number of stars depending on your timing. Each dance level progresses through various stages, each slightly more difficult than the last. More than anything though, these sequences just drag on and on. They're good fun when delivered in three minute chunks, but anything more gets old fast. Of course, it's pretty damn funny watching a fish turn his fins into makeshift parachute pants.
The racing sequences dish out quite a bit of fun. Unlike the first race, where player interaction is restricted to occasional taps on the old controller, later races offer more interaction. You'll need to throttle past fish commuters, dodge transports and traffic and even ride super-fast currents through the bowels of Reef City. While they won't pry speed junkies away from Burnout 3, these watery races still manage to get your blood pumping.
You'll spend the bulk of your time in Shark Tale playing through the Adventure stages. These stages take on different forms. The first (as mentioned above) sees you saving furniture. Other levels have you swim around Reef City hunting for specific items, all while dodging pesky crabs, angry puffer fish, jelly fish and other obstacles. In an interesting move, you can swim into almost any house in Reef City to feed on other fishes' table scraps to restore your health. This makes adventuring quite easy, since each meal restores a large portion of your health.
Adventure mode even features stealth missions. You'll need to swim behind barrels, crates and other obstructions to keep from getting caught. Unfortunately, it's next to impossible to get caught. Security fish or sharks will spot you as you make your way from barrel to barrel, but won't come investigating. They'll just shout "Hey, there's Oscar" and forget they saw you if you duck behind a barrel. Metal Gear it is not.
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