BBC Radio 5 Live film critic, Mark Kermode, often argues that Jaws isn’t a film about a shark .
There’s many theories. Some believe it’s a metaphorical representation of the fear of the atom bomb, while others, like Mark, stand firmly that Jaws is a morality tale and the poor beachgoers are at the receiving end of a lesson to be taught about the corruption on land.
Maneater is anything but those things. It’s a game about a shark and any sense of morality is stripped away when you’re gulping down an innocent holiday maker on an inflatable unicorn.
Yet, despite its whimsical throwaway nature, there is a story beneath the surface of Maneater to give the killing some context in the grander scheme of things.
The game’s opening minutes will see you throwing the death count of Jaws out of the window as you munch through the ocean like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
In comes notorious shark hunter, Scaly Pete, in a reality TV fashion. Maneater plays like a Discovery Channel reality show, with frontman Scaly Pete played as an anti Steve Irwin.
All of this is backed by hilarious commentary from Chris Parnell, commonly known as Jerry from Rick & Morty. Having your escapades constantly narrated from the frequently amusing voice work advocates Maneater’s stronger points.
After the initial bloodshed, you’ll find your shark captured and gutted, only to find that she was pregnant. Then comes you, as you rise from birth to adulthood on your quest for revenge.
Maneater is a game made up of busy work, consistent checklists to keep you going forward to further evolve your shark through various life cycle stages.
Kill 10 Mackerel, Kill 10 Humans — the objectives never evolve beyond this basic premise.
Clearly, Manhunter is a game that neglects the moral message relayed in Finding Nemo, that “fish are friends, not food”, as half of your time is spent purging the oceans of its natural residents.
Early hours will see you tackling smaller fry, with later sections you have battling Orcas and Sperm Whales.
Chomping your way through the food chain enables you to gather experience in various categories, which in turn are used to upgrade certain attachments you unlock as you progress.
You’ll unlock fins, heads and perks to attach to your shark for whichever best suits your playstyle.
Initially, these do nothing more than buff up particular attributes such as your biting strength or damage taken, but later upgrades will gift you the ability to add elements such as electricity to your shark for devastating results.
To get there though requires a lot of chomping and repeating the same repetitive tasks, over and over again.
The main problem that rests with Maneater is that it reveals all of its cards far too early and instead of building upon its initial concept in interesting ways, just has you mashing the triggers till you’re worn out with repetitive strain injury.
All of this is further worsened by how basic the combat remains throughout. Aside from chomping, you can use your fin to tail whip enemies and you can dodge away.
Later you’ll unlock a special cooldown ability, but nothing that dramatically changes the combat.
Additionally, the lock-on camera is unbelievably poor as it remains to lock-on to enemies that disappear out of view, making the 360 degree battles unmanageable at points.
That’s not to say there’s not to be fun had.
The initial opening hours as you utilise the ocean as your playground are open for experimentation and later moments when you’re able to incorporate larger-than-life enhancements to your shark make some attempt to dial up the combat, but it comes far too late.
The Verdict – 3/5
– Reviewed on Xbox One
Maneater is like a joke that had a great punchline, but is milked for all its worth afterwards.
For a time, Maneater is the ShaRkPG that you’ve been waiting for, but slowly becomes a gameplay loop that grows tiresome.
Its short length luckily negates this being a dealbreaker, but Maneater is best played in small bursts as you slowly tick box your way through its extensive checklist.