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GBA Review - 'Shark Tale'

by Nathan Mourfield on Dec. 3, 2004 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

"Shark Tale" takes you on a new adventure as Oscar, a bigger-than-life fish working his way up the food chain, who becomes an unlikely hero as he searches for an easy path to fame and fortune. With a blend of original and film-inspired gameplay, players immerse themselves in a hip, underwater urban culture featuring the gritty environments of Reef City and funky tunes inspired by the film.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: September 28, 2004

Games that are based on movies or television shows often do not live up to the hype of their theatrical counterparts, aside from some notable exceptions like Riddick and Tron 2.0. These titles stand out in bleak contrast compared to most of the movie-based games that are pushed onto the gaming community. Shark Tale for the GBA is a side-scrolling action fighter based loosely on the film, and it was released the same week that the motion picture hit movie theaters across the country.

The game covers most of the scenes from the movie as the player goes through Oscar's gritty world of Reef City. Here, the player completes various tasks like working at the car wash, exploring a sunken ocean liner, or stopping graffiti artists from defacing property.

There is a limited amount of screen space available on the GBA, so some concessions have to be made, but there was perhaps a bit too much action at the sacrificial altar for this title because the graphics were blurred and primitive. This can be addressed by simplifying the graphics, as done in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but by not cleaning up the lines, it makes for a game that can flicker at times and give blinding headaches. The background graphics are cluttered, and everything has a cell-shaded, day glow look to it that is unflattering.

Level design is a strange affair with me, considering how I feel about this game. The concept of not having to jump around is actually pleasing, but the levels are complex and a little confusing, and there is a lot of backtracking to achieve some tasks.

Controls in this game are very simple, and I have to admit that I was able to flail through the game without too much work against most of the enemies. Combat mainly boils down to pressing a sequence of buttons as fast as possible, mainly resulting in a button mashfest.

The sound was cheesy and sounded akin to the strange noises that come from my 6-year-old nephew. The music contains a tinny quality and I found that this to be a distraction so I turned down the volume so as not to hear it.

The replayability of Shark Tale is zilch to none. After finishing it, there is nothing left to do but to play through it all over again. This is slightly disappointing, but not exactly surprising, for a GBA title. A younger child could have fun going through this game a few times, but I could not get my nephew to play through it twice. This game contains limited content with no multiplayer or any other redeeming features to set it apart from the stacks of GBA titles at the local electronics store.

The strategy plan for this title was to obviously trade off on the popularity of the "Shark Tale" movie, since the main character is depicted on the cover of the game box. For an average price of $30, there is no reason to go with this game until the price comes down significantly because there are more entertaining games in this price range. The graphics are blocky and unclear, the storyline is weak, and the combat is uninteresting and repetitive. This title was intended to be a kid's game, but it certainly wouldn't have appealed to me if I were a kid. Shark Tale is a rental if there is nothing else to play, but I would certainly warn against buying it.

Score: 4.5/10

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