Maneater PC Review
“Another one bites the dust, and another one gone, and another one gone”. This is the tagline I came up with for Maneater, a game that puts you into the shoes, or should that be fin? Of a Shark, with the single goal of growing big and strong through raw, brutal carnage!
Sharks, they swim, eat and make baby sharks. Tripwire managed to capture most of those three points in their Shark Simulator (minus the baby shark making, as that would have taken Maneater into a whole new realm). Maneater, in essence, is a game about swimming and eating anything that moves, unlocking new areas to explore around and munching on anything that looks tasty. This is the game’s core gameplay loop, and so the player will be doing these same actions over and over.
Maneater begins by giving us an introduction to a baby Bull Shark freshly cut from its mother, and yes I really do mean cut in all sense of the word. Scaly Pete is a shark hunter, who is shown to gruesomely slaughter mommy shark, your mommy. Pete then scars the young Bull Shark so he can identify him, but sharks, you know, they like blood, and to get blood you need to chew, and in some sort of justice and revenge, the young shark takes a snap at Scaly Pete’s right arm, taking it clean off (good going baby shark… doo-doo). This is when the journey towards mighty sharkdom begins for the player.
The player is plopped into the bayou, a mighty find starting ground for a baby shark to begin to take pickings through the local fauna, fighting off Alligators and other fearsome little critters trying to have their own snack on the player. This starts to quickly lose its appeal, though, as eating anything does not really help the player grow, and so becomes a bit mindless after spending a bit of time chomping at stuff. The real growth comes from hunting down the environment’s top predators and completing all the landmarks or grated off areas scattered around the stage, but this can also become mindless as more time is spent playing Maneater.
Fighting fearsome creatures of the deep in the beginning can put you on edge, since the player is at disadvantage when basically being a young, inexperienced level two shark coming up against a level eight alligator. Once you realise the AI is pretty bad, though, and evasions are wasteful, you can unleash a barrage of attacks to bring enemies down quickly. Various creatures I faced off against suffered from clipping issues, such as getting stuck in the environment, making them easier to kill, basically a free snack for my growing shark. Killing the hunters also becomes brainless, as players can perform a move that Echo the Dolphin would be proud of, by jumping out of the water and snatching a hunter off the boat, gnawing on their helpless body to your hearts content – yummy!
As you gain experience and level up by beating up apex predators and hunters, skills become available to upgrade the shark, mutating it into various forms. This could transform the sea beast to a boat killing machine or give it some elemental fun by giving it electric teeth. Through my game time, I found the best upgrade was the Shadow Teeth, which essentially increases missing health with each eat bite making the shark a regenerating, unstoppable murdering machine. Once you get to a certain point with upgrades the game turns into a cakewalk. The main challenge at this point is trying to keep yourself awake long enough on the swim to the next mission, as the excitement of the game’s premise slowly disappears.
Visuals are pleasant to see on screen, but some players might become bored staring at green water, or water in general, and the plethora of floating debris and flora within it. The environments bring back memories of the Flintstones cartoon, with a feeling of cut and past repeated to make up the backgrounds. One thing quick to realise is that many human character models look the same, and consider there are on average three or four missions per area that require you to chomp on folks, it all feels a little lacking in that area, especially when all the models do is the exact same thing, standing still and waving their arms making no attempt to get away from the shark flopping its way up the shore to eat them.
Maneater starts as an enjoyable, silly concept, making it fun for a couple of hours. It is a title that reminds me of the show, the Deadliest Catch, but as the game goes on, the missions start to become repetitive, and the underwater colour palette makes me wish I had shark vision. One thing for sure, though, is Maneater could have had potential to be bloody great time if given the change to expand on its potential to be the Jaws of the gaming world, but sadly, it falls short of that. Still, one thing it does good is that it puts a top to my desire to go swimming in the sea for a while.