Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, spent much of his life campaigning for the protection of sharks. His book, and the subsequent film adaptation, changed the public perception of sharks so wildly that it led to mass hunting. In fact, shark attacks are incredibly rare, and deadly ones almost never happen. 2019 saw an estimated 140 worldwide human/shark interactions according to research conducted by the Florida Museum, less than 100 of those were unprovoked and most resulted in no injuries at all. More injuries are caused each year by staplers. The point is, sharks aren’t anywhere near as dangerous as you might think, but Maneater isn’t a realistic game so none of that matters and you can have plenty of fun chomping on humans.
The premise of Tripwire Interactive’s latest title can be pretty much summed up in the simple phrase “fuck you, I’m a shark”. It doesn’t come up in the game, but it’s the ethos behind the game. You start out as a cute little shark pup, and through eating lots and lots of fish and random seabed junk, you grow up to be a bigger and bigger shark with more skills and plenty of over-the-top enhancements like echolocation, electric teeth, and the ability to jump higher than Kriss Kross and Van Halen combined.
The developer describes the title as a “ShARkPG”, and it delivers on that promise. This isn’t just a chaos-causing sandbox like Goat Simulator or Untitled Goose Game, but a full-fledged open world adventure with a storyline, missions and a detailed levelling system. The aforementioned enhancements are earnable through gameplay and changeable depending on your tastes, meaning you can customise your shark to your particular playstyle.
You are the daughter of a shark killed by “Scaly Pete”, who is a legendary shark hunter. Your task, in the long run, is to defeat Pete, but along the way, you’ll be eating basically anything that fits in your mouth in order to level up and collect nutrients to spend on upgrades. The game also throws nutrient caches liberally around the seabed, which give further boosts to spend on making yourself the most powerful fish to grace the ocean. There are various sections of ocean you can unlock as you progress through the game. Usually these are kept shut with gates that you need to reach a certain level to be able to bash open with your tail. Each area contains different fauna to swallow, as well as various quests, usually surrounding the consumption of either fish or people. There are often “boss” type quests with larger predators such as Mako or Alligators to go after. In addition there are 10 landmarks such as statues or shipwrecks to visit in each section. There’s certainly a huge amount of content to see, and completing it gets you ever closer to the final showdown with Pete.
There’s an air of cartoon-esque horror in Maneater, but at the same time, there are some gruesomely realistic moments. When you grab a human from a boat and drag them under water, they often continue screaming below the surface, making distressing gurgling sounds along the way. I felt bad for finding this to be amusing, and there’s a reasonable chance that you will as well. I don’t think there’s any shame in it, just keep reminding yourself that they’re not real people. Also, a lot of the time, the people you will be eating are shark hunters anyway, so they kind of deserve it.
Visually, it’s a nice but not amazing game. Graphics are solid, but not groundbreaking. Some of the underwater vistas are lovely, though I wish little bits of my shark didn’t keep clipping into them every now and then. It’s not a gamebreaker, but don’t expect to be wowed by the visuals. The style is realistic but with some exaggeration such as with ridiculous amounts of bleeding from anything you attack (even empty boats for some reason).
Combat is a little bit repetitive after a while, with most fights just being a case of evading an attack from an enemy, chomping on them for a bit, then repeating. You might also nip away to eat a fish to get health back in the meantime. It’s still good fun to partake in, but don’t expect to find a huge amount of tactical depth. It’s more about brute force than elegance, and this wouldn’t be so surprising if it wasn’t for the fact that the initial gameplay turned out to be a lot more involved than first expected. You can rush through the main missions in about ten hours too, but there are enough side missions to keep you occupied for a while.
There’s a danger with this type of game that the novelty factor becomes more important than the gameplay itself. My time with Maneater showed that the developer was clearly aware of this danger, and did their best to avoid it. With no multiplayer and a relatively short campaign, it could be said that there’s not enough time for it to overstay its welcome, but nonetheless, I do feel that enough was done to avoid the problem of the novelty wearing off. Overall, it was good fun to play and exceeded my initial expectations for the game, and my only criticism would be that I wanted to rule the sea for just a little bit longer.
Maneater (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
With more in the game than the concept might suggest, this is a fun to play title and exceeded my initial expectations of how the game would be. It’s a little short and I would have liked more of it, but this is definitely worth picking up.