Anyone can make a game where a human hunts after a shark. But what if the tables were turned, and you actually portrayed a shark looking to get revenge on hunters? And not in the most traditional, straight-forward manner, mind you?
That’s the basis behind Maneater, a surprisingly delightful shark-PG (RPG, but with a shark, get it?) with open worlds to explore, a lot of progression to earn, and, of course, plenty of prey to eat. It’s not an entirely polished experience, but it gets more than enough right to recommend. Not to mention it’s Chris Parnell’s best work outside of 30 Rock and Rick & Morty.
In the game, you begin by playing a fully powered up shark, devouring his way through both targets on land and in the water. But then you go back to square one after meeting a hunter who’s a little too sharp for his looks, beginning as the shark’s kid, hellbent on revenge. It’s like Jaws IV, but not so heavy on the schmaltz.
As you make your way through the game, you’ll level up, earning new abilities including a wicked tail whip and increased sonar, making it easier to find enemies to chow down on. But there’s some challenge here, particularly with larger foes that open up interesting battles. After all, it’s not every day that a baby shark takes on an alligator. (Doo doo doo.)
The gameplay is nicely balanced, especially when it comes to working your way through the water, discovering secrets and gnawing away on enemies both big and small. There are times that the targeting system can be slightly off, forcing you to adjust your camera and hopefully avoid incoming attacks at the same time. But TripWire pulled off something majestic here.
Not to mention the game really opens up as time goes on, giving you the ability to pounce out of the water and eat people straight from boats. As you continue, you’re able to go after top-tier hunters, including the one that took out your mom. It’s a great tale of revenge, and one well built with abilities to unlock, along with goodies like special armor. Yes, you can play as an armored shark. Hallelujah.
There’s also interesting combat tactics to use, like an evade feature that’s more than helpful, and that tail whip, which can injure your prey before you move in for the kill. It can take a little getting used to, but it’s way more fun than what Jaws Unleashed did years ago.
Not the Best Looking Shark, But Still Killer
Maneater isn’t half bad when it comes to presentation. Sure, the graphics can be a little foggy at times (especially with the murky waters in the beginning of the game). But it also delivers with wonderfully designed open-world levels, as well as cool stuff both above and below the water. The only downside is when the camera makes a jarring leap between the two, making it hard to see prey sometimes. Once you get used to it, however, you’ll find that this shark has some teeth visually.
But it’s the audio that’s the thing. Along with fun music that pops up over the course of the game (set with a reality TV theme, of course), there’s also some swell commentary provided by Parnell. He provides a lot of dim-witted facts about sharks, all set with a perfect deadpan tone. He should narrate a lot more games if he has the chance, maybe even on YouTube. (We’d love to hear his take on Final Fantasy VII Remake sometime.)
Overall, this game takes creative use of the reality TV angle and makes a fun looking and sounding experience out of it. You’re bound to have more fun with Maneater than you might expect. The only thing missing is the classic Hall & Oates song of the same name. I mean, come on.
Sink Your Teeth Into This One
Unpolished visuals and slight gameplay quirks aside, Maneater is a shocking delight. It comes out of nowhere and literally sinks its teeth into you, offering hours of satisfying gameplay as you devour everything in the water – and on it. The gameplay will have you hooked for hours at a time; and the progression level is through the roof with new abilities and looks. Plus, it’s all done with the soothing, comedic voice of Chris Parnell. We’re telling you, there’s a fine fish tale here.
Pay no attention to PETA, because Maneater is one shark tale you don’t want to miss.