After just short of thirty hours playing this game, and reaching 100% completion, I put the controller down and started to reflect on the experience I just had. Maneater fills a void in gaming I did not know I had. Starting off innocuous enough with a humble faux documentary series as a framing device to guide the player through the various locals and story beats of the game.
It is when you are set free and are allowed to be your best self…shark? That the game really shows what its got to offer the player. The mechanics of going from a baby-shark to a mega-shark, and feeling that growth with everything you eat, is so visceral and satisfying its something that can only really be explained by experiencing it. Growth is not just represented in your size though. Maneater comes with shARk PG elements, so as you get bigger you are able to eat bigger and bigger prey; its this symbiotic gameplay loop that keeps you coming back and it doesn’t get tiresome.
There are threats of all kinds, from sea creatures to humans with some apex predators in the mix as well. Whilst the core gameplay loop of eating things, getting stronger and repeat, is satisfying; the mission design leaves something to be desired. It is not that the missions are bad, per se. They are repetitive with interest of each new location being squandered by the same old tasks. Even the mercenary becomes repetitive after a while only really proving a challenge at the highest threat levels (8-10).
The controls took me a while to get a grasp of and were initially quite frustrating. However, after settling down to understand the way the game is presenting your growth, I got into a groove and found it became intuitive after some time. The downside here is that there’s not enough variety; you chomp, thrash, ram, dodge or whip and that’s essentially it. There is no real flow to be found. Most enemies don’t last long enough but late game it would have been nice to see more options available. Implementing a small combo system that you could link together would be a big plus for me in this regard. What is currently available in the game is fine, serviceable, and fun for the most part but when you are the apex predator and you are doing the same moves as you were as a teen it loses some of that lustre.
I played this game in short bites over the course of a week and honestly, that felt like it was the best way to experience it. Short bursts of ‘ooh chaos carnage and bloodshed’ with a little underwater sightseeing that really helped me enjoy finishing all the side quests and collectables. The collectable locations are one of the most ingenious things about this game’s design; each has a strongly written sentence or two attached to it, coupled with Chris Parnell’s excellent delivery makes discovering these a real treat.
Whilst talking about performances I do want to highlight how Parnell makes this game, as the narrator, tying everything together, offering perspective to your actions and often delivering very clever lines. It helps maintain the framing device of this being a show and also provides the majority of the laughs I found in the game. The main antagonist, Scaly Pete, is also profoundly perfect in lampooning the larger than life characters seen on reality TV; but also has some sincere beats to him. The way the short story ends leaves me wanting more from potential story content or a sequel. I would also like to see reaction to the show itself.
I feel, despite tiptoeing in the shallows of deep RPG and customization, it doesn’t go far enough. Although this is forgivable since the game is a fairly short romp. The good side of this is that it lets you focus on becoming the absolute queen of the sea in whichever way you want. A lightning striking kaiju-esque monster or a speedy and stealthy slayer of all. There’s room to mix and match and seeing the cosmetic appearance change, along with the increase in pieces in levels, adds to the power fantasy.
Overall my time with Maneater was fun and refreshing given everything going on the world it was a much-needed distraction for me mentally. I am excited to see where Tripwire takes Maneater and hopefully, the sequel will “jump the shark” and go full-on character action into this crazy shark world they have created.
Tripwire has created one heck of a summer sizzler and I would recommend this to anyone looking for something fun and fast to play. Maneater is a great start but hopefully is a launchpad for things much, much greater.
Should you play it? Yes
Why? Its a fun and fast action-packed ShARk PG
Reviewed on Xbox One. Review code supplied by ONE PR