STAFF REVIEW of Shark Tale (Xbox)

Tuesday, October 5, 2004.
by Salmonaitor

Shark Tale Box art There has to be something about making a movie into a video game that just throws developers for a loop. I mean its hard to blame them if it turns out to be a dog (or, as in this case, a fish), because you can never really tell how much creative control they have, and in this case it looks like very little. How can I tell you ask? Well, with this game, it starts in the very beginning, with the DreamWorks splash, and never really stops the whole way through. DreamWorks is plastered all the way throughout this game. The game starts off with a great shot of the DreamWorks kid fishing from the moon with the splash in the water like weve seen so many times before; it then follows the line underwater down to the depths of the ocean where we meet our cast of characters. The chapters are cleverly broken up by newspaper articles, which personally, I found to be a nice touch (if you dont get this little morsel of subliminal humor, just stop by your local fish and chips shop), but this game quickly lost its charm after that.

It starts out strong with an exciting first level. A shark chases you through obstacles, as you dodge his ferocious attacks. Its quite suspenseful at times, and I really enjoyed it. You get extra points if you finish the journey unscathed, which is difficult to do the first go round. I found myself thinking, heck, this might be a good little game, but then I got to the next level, and the level after that and that annoying little crab guy andwell, the game took a turn for the worse. One thing that I cant stand about this game is that it cant decide if it wants to be a movie, or a game. The other thing is that its just the same thing over and over, only with more stuff in your way, and its not really clear what to do next, or what your actual objective is on some of the levels.

So, at this point Im a little frustrated, and dont really get the game, so I decided to bring in the experts. I mean, maybe Im just not looking at this like a kid, maybe my grown-up goggles are clouding my vision. So in come my 5 year old, and my 3 year old to save the day. These are 2 kids who can play some Xboxwell, the 5 year old can anyways. So she sits down with controller in hand. The beginning bit comes on with the shark chase and shes pretty excited, and a little bit scared as the shark comes nipping at her fins, and she says:

Wait, Dad, can we stop this for a sec?
(Dad pauses game),
what happens if he eats me, will the game be over? Can I come back? I will be sad if he eats the fish.
(Awwwwww, isnt that sweet?), no sweetie, its just like he bonks you in the head, and you get a little dizzy, and have to start all over.
Ok, then Ill keep going
(Dad unpauses game)
She gets bonked in the head a few times, but eventually finishes the level. She seemed to really like it, as did I, so we went on to the next level.

So, off to the next level we go, which is slightly more confusing, but still, not very difficult. I guess the story goes that this fish get evicted from his apartment, and his land lady tosses his stuff out the window. You have to save the stuff before it falls to the ground and breaks by circling around the object (circling around things seems to be the premise of this game). This isnt terribly difficult, but the controls are awkward, and so is the play. At this point my daughter is getting a little frustrated, and starting to lose interest, so I finished the level for her and off we went to level three, which, is where the breakdown really happened.

My daughter has a pretty good attention span, she can play a game for a pretty long time, and even figure out some stuff on her own without having to call me to get her out of a pickle, but this 3rd level really perplexed both of us. Im not going to go into details, because frankly, Im still trying to sort them out for myself, but apparently, they just wanted to throw in the worst level in gaming history (with more circling tasks) out there because, well, lets face it, this isnt a video game, its movie merchandise.

Now there are some cool aspects to the game, and the one I like most, is the play on those dancing games you see in the arcade these days (forgive me for being ever so un-hip and not knowing the name), which, by the way, you wouldnt catch this crotchety old man on in a million years. Cheesy music from the 80s comes on and you have to press the buttons in sequence, which is a little frustrating, but laugh out loud funny sometimes, especially when youre as uncoordinated as I.

They did a pretty good job at the graphics and the movie and game play blend very nicely. I like the fact that you can skip past the movie parts whenever you want, in case its the 3rd or 4th time youre playing the level. Everything seems very crisp and clear, and there is not much to complain about, especially compared to some of the other movie turned video game attempts out there where you just wonder why theres any move clip in it to begin with, as it only serves to make the graphics department look bad. Sound? Well, I didnt really notice game sound so much. There are some hit songs scattered throughout, and of course, the movie dialog bits, but actual game sounds I found more irritating than anything.

Now, for the record, I just dont like this game, and this had been a tough experience for me to write this review. I dont like to blatantly slag anything, especially when I cant give entirely valid reasons for doing it. I tried to like it, I tried to get my kids to like it (and believe me, its sad when you kids ask you if they can stop playing video games and go do something else), but its just so hard for me to warm up to this game for some reason. Maybe its the sloppy game play, lack of understandable plot, unlikable characters, or probably a combination of those things and more. I also havent seen the movie, so its very possible that Im missing a lot here. But with all that said, Im sure that there are people out there that will really get a kick out of this, and if you think youre one of them, then ignore everything Ive just said.

Overall: 4.0 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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