We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
Platform: Playstation 4.
Available on: Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One.
Genre: Action RPG.
Developer: Blindside Interactive.
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive.
Released: May 22, 2020.
Are you the kind of person that sees a trailer for Sharknado 12 (or whatever number they are on) and thinks there is a movie for me. If so then I might just have the game for you. When I first saw the trailer for Maneater I thought it looked like some good old fashioned silly fun and that I would give it a go some day. Then I forgot about it as is often the case with silly looking games. Fast forward a few weeks and I had just finished playing Nioh 2, a massive RPG that took up 70ish hours and I wrote a review for, which you can find here. So, I needed a palate cleanser before I jump into the upcoming Last of Us part 2. Some game that was easy to pick up and didn't require much effort on my part. Then I remembered “wasn't there some trailer I had seen about a man eating shark that looked fun” and after a quick trip to the Playstation store I was booting up Maneater.
In Maneater you play as a bull shark out for revenge after you are cut from your mother's womb by Scaly Pete, the cajun star of a reality show with the same title as the game. Think Deadliest Catch meets Swamp People. After Pete pulls you from your mother you bite his arm off. This opening sequence cements the two of you as mortal enemies for the games roughly 10 hour play time. If you haven't guessed already in a game where you play as a shark terrorising a coastal town this is about as deep as the story telling gets. Not that they don't try, they do, it just falls very flat.
As previously mentioned Maneater is a silly game about a shark eating people, so you would think that it's filled with silly characters. You would be wrong. Scaly Pete is written to act so seriously and all consumed by revenge that he seems out of place in a game that by its very nature is an exercise in not taking things too seriously. They even try to shoehorn in an arc about Pete’s strained relationship with his marine biologist son only to have it used as a plot device to further Pete’s descent in all consuming vengeance. However, the game does give us some moments of hilarity. This mainly comes from Maneater’s narrator Chris Parnell of Archer and Rick & Morty fame. You would swim along as a shark tends to do and hear things like, “shark hunting is illegal here in the gulf. Shark hunters get around this by just not caring” or “The muskellunge, or "muskie", is a fresh-water fish commonly found throughout the Great Lakes region... so I have no idea what it's doing here”. There is a huge list of funny quotes from the narrator in Maneater and even more references to all kinds of pop culture and historic events. As funny as these are you do eventually reach a point where you are hearing them on repeat which ultimately kills the fun.
Somehow though I don’t think you are playing a game about a man eating shark to have it move you to tears. You play it to F*** S*** up.
Just keep swimming.
As you can imagine, gameplay in Maneater revolves around chomping on unsuspecting fish and people to complete objectives but that's about it outside of a few “boss” fights. Starting out as a young shark you swim through the waterways eating fish to gain XP and upgrade resources. As you gain XP you eventually become an adult shark gaining increased strength and speed, eventually working your way to the status of mega shark. Along the way you gain new abilities that you can swap out from your grotto (safe room). These include things like bioelectric teeth that can shock enemies or a bone tail to make you hit harder. Collecting these abilities was my favorite part of the game because not only did they make you a swimming tank but they changed how you looked in cool ways and as you upgraded them they began to look more terrifying and intimidating. I know if I saw a shark coming at me with giant electric teeth and a head made of bone I would row as fast as possible to get out of there. However all these cool upgrades come with a big asterisks next to them.
While they are all very cool, they make you strong, like too strong. Maneater never presented me with any form of a challenge. I use the word “boss” fight in quotations because they were never hard enough to earn the title. Fish are everywhere in this game and because you get upgrade material from them running out is never an issue. Just a few hours in I was so overpowered that I was basically doing missions on auto pilot because I never had to worry about dying. Even when the GTA style heat meter would fill and the fish police would come to shoot harpoons at me it was never a problem. Talking of missions I would've loved some that did not consist of killing something whether it be fish or human. That’s all missions are in Maneater, go to X and kill Y. Once you have killed Y you can now travel to a different X and kill a different Y. At one stage I checked my mission log and it just said complete this area to at least 50% to continue. So, not only are missions repetitive, sometimes they are non existent and they make you hunt collectibles or find apex predators to fight.
A quick note on apex predators, they are one of the few parts of the game that present a challenge as they are usually a beefed up version of some sea creature with an attitude problem. The fact that they are a challenge made them fun and trying to fight them in deep waters had the same feeling as trying to dog fight in the air. The 3D space added an extra element of difficulty outside of the usual raming of boats and chasing of smaller fish.
Is it safe to go back in the water?
Maneater wears its heart on its giant shark as it were. What I mean by that is you get exactly what it says on the tin. You are a shark, you are mad, you take that anger out on fishermen and marine life. The slick looking upgrades give you something to work towards and keep you interested for a time but ultimately they are so easy to get the fun wears off. The same can be said for most the game. The first few times you are asked to munch on some humans it's super fun. You jump out of the water, pull them off a boat, trash around a swim away leaving nothing but a pool of blood in your wake. Then after 4 or 5 times nothing really changes and it starts to feel like copy and paste. While I found Chris Parnell’s narration hilarious at first, once I heard lines repeated a few times they lost their comedic punch.
So, where does all this leave me with Maneater. I don't want to say it left me with a bad taste in my mouth because it definitely has its moments where it's fun to play and entertaining with its ludicrous shark facts. What I will say is that I got exactly what I was looking for, dumb fun. Dumb fun that eventually wore thin but dumb fun non the less. I wanted a game that would allow me to move from one big triple A experience to the next without leaving me a lot to digest. Exactly like what a palate cleanser between courses at a fancy restaurant should do. It's nice at first but ultimately it's just there to get you to the next delicious course.
Play this game if…
You like killing marine life.
You like big ass sharks.
You enjoy nonsensical facts about sharks delivered in a funny way.
You really, really hate boats.
You like dumb fun.
All images taken from the Maneater press kit here
Be sure to sign up on the site for all things Casual, and create your own Casual Game Community profile.
Have a great content idea that would be perfect for CGC? Contact us here and we’d be happy to chat!