Writing on video games by Steve Hernandez

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A review of Jaws (iOS game)

The Jaws franchise was never able to get a game that wasn't panned by the majority of players and critics. The most infamous example was Jaws Unleashed which was released in 2006 and developed by Appaloosa Interactive for the PC, Xbox, and Playstation 2. In it, You take control as the shark itself and go on a rampage against not only the citizens of Amity Island, but other sea creatures as well. The game was criticized for its controls, camera, and overall bugginess. On the other hand, it was also extremely over-the-top, violent, and dumb in ways that actually made the game entertaining and memorable. Just one of the game's hilarious moments involved a final battle with a killer whale at a park similar to SeaWorld.

Another example of the franchise's history of less than stellar games was Jaws, released for the NES in 1987. A few of the game's features made it reminiscent of a Japanese Role-Playing-Game. It had an overworld and random encounters that transitioned you from the overworld to a separate screen where you fought crabs,  stingrays, and occasionally the titular shark itself. The game was panned for being repetitive and not having much variety to its gameplay. You continuously gathered shells - the game's currency - in order to purchase upgrades so you could take down Jaws.

Jaws, released for the iOS by Fuse Powered Inc. in 2011, is an adaption of the first ever summer blockbuster with the same name. The game's campaign mode consists of three types of missions - Offshore Missions, Open-Water Missions, and Harbor missions. The primary goal in each of them is to rescue swimmers by flicking them to shore or flicking them to rescue boats that vary in handling and occupancy. You then draw a path on the screen for the boats to follow. Each rescued swimmer adds to your score, and a three-star system rates how many swimmers you were able to save from the deadly bite of Jaws. There are different types of swimmers that will panic, causing the Jaws meter at the bottom of the screen to increase. When the meter is filled, the iconic "da-dum" musical cue will play and Jaws will appear and pursue one of the swimmers.

The game isn't difficult and I was able to complete the campaign mode, which consists of ten missions, without losing once. There is a bit of challenge to the game which is the result of having to balance various tasks at the same time. The first mission is easy. It's an Offshore Mission that simply has you flicking swimmers to the shore away from Jaws. On the other hand, Mission 4, one of the Open-Water Missions, requires you to do more actions. You have to control multiple rescue boats at once. Not only do you have to flick the swimmers to the boats, you also have to make sure the boats don't collide with each other, causing the swimmers you rescued to spill out of the crashed boats and once again be vulnerable to Jaws. And while you're doing those things, you're also using a stationary boat called the gun boat - which can also be destroyed if one of your other boats collide with it - to keep Jaws away from the swimmers momentarily. I had no issues with the game's touch-based controls, I was able to perform all of the required in-game actions just fine.

Mission 10 is the last mission in the game and is a one-on-one showdown between you and the shark. You and Jaws are given health bars. Using the gun boat, you have to fire at Jaws enough times to trigger a scene in which he jumps onto your boat to try to chomp you. To deter him from depleting a chunk of your health bar, you have to quickly tap on a series of prompts in a small amount of time perfectly. Repeat this several times, and Jaws will explode into bloody chunks just like in the original film.

Conceptually this boss battle is similar to the one in the 1989 NES game. Since Jaws is the primary antagonist in every Jaws film, it's appropriate to use him as the final boss in a video game. What I like about this game and the NES game is that Jaws is used as an omnipotent and invincible enemy that attempts to interrupt your progress until you finally get the chance to take it down in the final stage. Unfortunately, the final boss fight in this game never goes beyond just mildly entertaining. It's not difficult at all and the fight ends in just several minutes.

Jaws is a competently designed game that I completed in less than an hour. There is a survival mode in which you rescue swimmers until you lose, but the game lacks the longevity and replayability of many other iOS games, but for less than three bucks I felt like I had my money's worth. It's certainly not as memorable, or entertaining in an ironic way as Jaws Unleashed, but it's the only game based on the franchise that I would consider good, which is an achievement that took multiple generations in video game history to happen.


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