Arcade gaming for the fishes.
It’s hard to dislike Shark Tale, which is as derivative and predictable as any large number of animated movie-to-game adaptations that were so common throughout the mid to late 2000s. In fact, Activision even released the console game and DVD movie versions simultaneously. The computer game came shortly after, and for all of its ‘been there, done that’ gameplay, Shark Tale has a certain level of polish that at least makes it a respectable effort. That might not be setting the bar high, but God knows we had enough movie-to-game trashfires to keep our expectations low.
If you’ve played any number of games licensed around animated Pixar movies, you probably already know the basic mechanics – arcade platforming, simple combat, a little racing, lotsa coins to collect (and garbage you don’t care about to unlock), and several mini-games sprinkled throughout. Shark Tale does most of these, but it doesn’t (or perhaps “can’t” is more fitting) bother you with platforming puzzles since the whole shtick is that you’re a fish named Oscar who lives underwater. He’s a smooth talker who owes money to the local loanshark, and must complete missions for other big fish so he can earn his fins. Are these puns working for you yet?
Gameplay comes in several flavors: dancing, which rips off Dance Dance Revolution; adventure, which is where Oscar searches areas in stealth mode; escaping, which has Oscar swimming away in rail-shooter fashion; racing, which is, you guessed it, racing; and finally fighting, which is the boss battle mode. There is not even a pretense of tying these various modes of play together; rather, they are available as “missions” which will gain fame for Oscar. Oscar’s fame will enable him to access more missions, based on how many fame points he’s accumulated, which advances the story and unlocks new sections of Reef City.
Each game is a “mission”, and is accessed by finding various undersea inhabitants who have signs above their heads signifying their willingness to give Oscar something to do. These missions all require a different number of “fame points”, which Oscar earns in direct correlation to the success of his participation in these missions. Some of these missions can be replayed for a better outcome and more points.
But unless you’re a kid who has never played a computer game in his life, or a grandpa who is perhaps too easily amused, Shark Tale will present next to no challenge. Every one of the missions, including the stealth ones (a usual bane for impatient players) can be passed with little effort. Perhaps the game likes to cut you too much slack, or perhaps it won’t expect any adults to play. In any case, junior will most definitely not smash the keyboard out of sheer frustration on this one.
But despite the ease of difficulty and unoriginal game modes, there’s nothing inherently wrong about Shark Tale’s existence. It’s a well rounded, somewhat funny and easy to play game that manages to entertain if not entice. If you’re in a hurry, you could rush through the thing in a day or two with little replay value. Sure you can collect cash and unlock garbage you don’t care about, but wouldn’t you rather be playing something a bit more… fun?
System Requirements: Pentium III 700 MHz, 128 MB RAM, WinXP
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