Shark Tale


posted 11/27/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
Platforms: Xbox
In the past, kid-friendly movie-based games were the gaming industry equivalent of the nerdy kid at school with the “Kick Me” sign on his back. They’re constantly picked on by the better games, and for good reason, they suck. Developers rushed to pick up the licenses and put out a sub-par game in order to capitalize on the success of the major motion picture. A few years ago this all changed when Activision started picking up the rights to a wide assortment of kid-themed properties. It all began with last year’s Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure and continued with this year’s excellent rendition of Shrek 2. Now they’ve released a game to coincide with the release of DreamWorks Picture’s Shark Tale and it’s a worthy adventure for any of today’s younger gamers.

Shark Tale loosely follows the events of the recently released motion picture. Players take the role of Oscar as he engages in a wide array of escapes and adventures. The game essentially breaks down into five different types of modes; a Dragon Lair-esque mode where you’re running from an enemy and an on-screen indicator will tell you direction to move in order to avoid an attack, a free-roaming mode where you swim around the city and accomplish a designated task, a racing mode where you have to race to a checkpoint, a stealth mode where you’ll have to finish a task undetected and a Dance Dance Revolution-like mini-game. Aside from the main free-roaming mode the other four types of play boil down into mini-game status. If you’d like you can plug in a dance pad to play the dance sequences but it doesn’t really enhance the experience. Arrows will tell you where to step but they have very little to do with the action that’s happening on the screen. The sequences are excruciatingly long as well as you’ll need to dance through an entirety of songs like “Can’t Touch This” and “Carwash”. On a side note, my girlfriend enjoys it so if your children are easily amused by shiny objects this might be the perfect game for them.

I actually liked the stealth missions in the game; they’re fun and very forgiving. They’re not just thrown in for the sake of being thrown in either; they actually make sense in the scheme of things. In an early stage Oscar is late for work and he needs to clock in without being seen so that he can act as if he were on-time. For this he’ll have to sneak through the whale wash and hide behind a wide assortment of objects. It operates on two-planes so it’s not too taxing for the younger ones and you can still finish the task even if you’re spotted by a guard. Some of the racing sequences can be frustrating and it suffers from the burden brought forth by poor controls. Luckily there’s only one race that will really challenge you, too bad it’s at the very end of the game. By that time you’ll have amassed a good five or six hours of gameplay. If you’ve spaced out your child’s playing time properly it’ll last them a good week.

Even though Shark Tale is a kid’s game it has some excellent production values that would tell you else wise. The visuals are pretty decent for today’s generation of games and the audio portions are excellent. You don’t get the real voice actors from the movies but the stand-ins do a decent job of retaining the feel of the movie. Besides, it’s not like your kids would go wild for Renee Zellweger’s voice anyway. The game also features many of the tracks that appear in the movie including the aforementioned “Can’t Touch This” and “Carwash”.

If you have kids who are fans of the movie, or you’re a fan yourself, you won’t have any problems getting into Shark Tale. It might be geared towards younger audiences, but it’s good enough to be placed up there with the big boys. In a market that’s crowded with violent video games and mature themes, it’s nice to see that developers are still making kid’s games that are worth playing. Buy this one for your kids this Christmas; it’s a bundle of good, wholesome fun that they’ll love.

If you're remotely interested in the major motion picture or you have kids who are, this is a no-brainer. It's one of the best kid's games available on the market.

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