Reviewed: October 9, 2004
Released: September 29, 2004
As is the case with many movies nowadays, Shark Tale hit theaters early this month with a game based on the film already in stores. Vicarious Visions, the developer responsible for Shrek 2 and various other movie-based titles, does fairly well for Shark Tale in creating a solid and entertaining, if fairly standard, GBA game.
Shark Tale is mostly a side-scrolling platform-style game, but every few sub-stages, the game mixes it up with one or two mini-games of different genres. A few of these stages are Dance Dance Revolution-esque rhythm games, simple races that mostly involve a bit of button-mashing and occasional jumping, or fighting game-type combat requiring you to block, dodge, and unleash attack strings. Overall, the mini-games are pretty standard, but together, they offer a refreshing mix of variety.
The side-scroller aspect is pretty standard fare, but it’s very playable and the controls are smooth. As Oscar, you swim about a two-dimensional reef city, collecting “subway tokens” (which unlock additional mini-games that can later be accessed in Arcade mode), occasionally beating up thugs with your fish-style martial arts combos, avoiding dangerous obstacles, and sometimes collecting quest items. Some levels, as in many platform games, require you to get through the level under a certain amount of time. These timed levels seem to be the most challenging.
Overall, the game plays well, and the learning curve is reasonable. Gameplay pointers are scattered throughout the beginning of the game, and Shark Tale is fairly easy as far as games go, so casual gamers should be comfortable picking it up. Platform game experts, though, may generally find it a bit on the easy side.
I was actually a bit surprised that the graphics were so crisp, despite the GBA’s small screen. The developers did a good job in rendering the Shark Tale characters accurately relative to the movie. The animation is smooth, the colors are vibrant, and – thanks to a neat ripple effect – the water actually looks fluid. Fortunately, while the graphics are very detailed for GBA visuals, it’s still pretty easy to tell where Oscar is, where the enemies are, what you can pick up, and what dangers you should avoid.
Cut-scene stills from the movie, too, have been skillfully converted for the GBA screen and look really good. The only negative aspect worth pointing out is the text, which is sometimes slightly difficult to read because of the non-standard font.
The music, sound effects, and voice clips are all fairly well-done by GBA standards, and the audio is clear. The BGM can get a little repetitive, since many of the songs have the same basic rhythm and style, but it’s not all that bad. (Unfortunately, since I haven’t watched the movie yet, I can’t say whether any of the movie soundtrack tunes were included in the game.)
I’ll be honest with you; I was 70% done with this game within an hour-and-a-half or two, with only some of the later timed stages giving me more of a challenge. As I mentioned earlier, Shark Tale is a relatively easy game, and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, playing through it will probably be quick for many gamers. The replay value mainly lies in: 1) your ability to go back to any previously completed stage, in case you like a certain mini-game or wanted to go back and collect more subway tokens, and 2) the additional features unlocked through subway token collection.
Collecting all the subway tokens (and unlocking all the extra mini-games) is not necessary for completing the game, so that aspect provides a bit more incentive to keep playing even after you’ve finished the main game. Shark Tale also keeps track of your high scores for various stages, so you can always go back and replay a mini-game just to see if you can beat your old score.
Overall, Shark Tale is a decent movie-based title and is pretty fun to boot, especially because the mishmash of different genres provides additional variety. It’s fairly easy to learn and play, so kids and new gamers should be able to pick it up without too much frustration. If you’re a fan of Shark Tale, you might just like this game.