Review: Shark Tale
Posted 31 Oct 2004 at 07:27 by Tom
Imagine my excitement. I know a game from C-E central office is winging its way to me for review. I see the postman, hear the thud as the parcel slides through the letter box and thuds to the floor, my pulse is racing, palms sweaty and I'm struggling to find enough clothes to spare my modesty for the run to the letter box. I've made it. I'm in my room, parcel in hand. I open it up and… oh the pain. The sadness. It's a movie tie-in. It's… Shark Tale.
For those of you who haven't seen the film, it follows the adventures of Oscar, a fish desperate for fame and respect. After he is found at the scene of the death of the son of the Shark Mafia boss he decides he can increase his standing by claiming he killed him. So the adventure continues, with various events and problems on the way.
This game, rather than just being a run-of-the-mill 3D platformer like most film based games has actually tried to do something a bit different. During the games 25 Chapters you will have to do a variety of things. There are some platform levels, some race levels, some chase levels, some fight levels and most bizarrely some dance levels!
As a platformer it is average at best. They are little more than swimming left or right in front of a 3D background. Simply completing the level usually requires little more than getting from one end to the other, which isn't a challenge at all. Thankfully, there are additional challenges that can be done. These are usually along the lines of smashing crates, or collecting pearls (the in-game currency, which is used to buy unlockable extras and judge your fame rating). Oddly, to collect pearls, and other things that need to be picked up, you have to swim around them in a circle. Strange but true. The addition of objectives may up the challenge, but doesn't affect the enjoyment levels. It is a dull, generic affair. Occasionally, in a bid to spice things up a bit there are stealth sections included in this mode. Sadly, this is more frustrating that it is fun, and often you can be just as successful by simply swimming very fast through the area you are meant to creep by. It also exposes serious camera errors, when often you can't see where you are about to swim into meaning repeating sections over and over and over.
The racing isn't much better, although there is certainly a lot more skill involved in this. The idea behind the racing levels is usually having to get to a certain place, for example the race track or work before the race starts or your boss gets there first. Like the other levels, they follow the plot of the film very accurately, which is great if you are a fan of the film. The races themselves are in very lively settings, through the streets of the city, with other traffic, short cuts, and even robbers on the way. They are, however, very technique based. To finish some of the harder races with in the time limits you have to use the power slide move which, like the controls through most of the game, is not intuitive, and for someone used to the Mario Kart style of power slide, it will take some adjusting to.
The chase levels are the weakest by a very long way. Oscar is swimming towards you, being chased by a shark. To escape the occasional lunges from the shark, you simply follow the onscreen arrow, telling you to dive left, right, up or down. Fun it is not. While there is some challenge involved in this, attacks coming more and more frequently in later levels, it is not a challenge that I relished.
The fight levels are pretty much the same as the chase levels, only Oscar is facing towards the shark and not away from him. Button bashing is a perfectly useable tactic, as few carefully aimed and planned attacks work. You can employ a variety of methods to make your bashing more effective, with combos and charging your punches, as well as timing your duck then lunge well. In all this is actually a surprisingly enjoyable mode.
Finally then, the dance mode, probably the strangest offering from this game. Since there is no dance accessory for the GameCube, unlike PS2 and X Box, you use the d-pad, and later on A, B, X and Y to control your dancer. This is the first major problem. Not only is the d-pad small, the other buttons aren't even in a square pattern, so using them is tricky, as the moves only appear as arrows, and not arrows with buttons. Not only that but the learning curve is very fast. Whilst the other modes have a sensible learning curve, dance mode gets significantly harder with each level, meaning the average gamer will have to replay each dance level several times before they get the required percentage of accuracy. The tracks chosen to dance to will be familiar to all, for example MC Hammer 'Can't Touch This', and all were used in the film. Once you get used to the controls dance mode isn't bad, but the difficulty is an issue.
As with the rest of the game, the graphics and sound are completely in keeping with the sights and sounds of the film. It really is an achievement that the developers of the game have managed to follow the film so well. Interestingly, none of the actors from the film have lent their vocal talents to the game, although you wouldn't notice, as Oscar sounds just like Will Smith (and looks disturbingly like him too!). The only let down with the graphics is that they allow for very limited exploring, as nothing is in true 3D. The soundtrack sadly is less than praiseworthy. Each level, regardless of whether it will take 1 or 10 minutes to finish only plays one, short song meaning that you and everyone within hearing range will be sick of the music very fast.
This game really isn't that bad. It is however simple, frustrating, and very short. But, for youngster gamers or real fans of the film, there is a lot here to keep you entertained. Many times during the game I thought back to my earlier years and wished this type of game had been around then as I would have loved it. It provides the variety of challenges and gentle learning curve that would be ideal for younger players.
Unless you have an unhealthy obsession with the film, or are young don't bother. But if those two descriptions match you, it will bring you hours of happiness.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Genuinely tries to do something different. Sadly its just not that good for an older player.
Ideal for younguns
Plenty of variety
Great film companion
Simple for older gamers