- Developer: Tripwire Interactive
- Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
- Release Date: 25/05/2021
- Price: £39.99 / $39.99
- Review code provided by Tripwire Interactive
- Version reviewed: 1.0.1
Introducing: Maneater Switch Review
What do you get when you swap a hero with a predatory fish? In the case of Maneater, you end up with a shaRkPG, in other words an open world action RPG in which you play a bull shark with a vengeance. Think of it as Jaws, but you’re the shark. Continue reading for our full review of Maneater on the Nintendo Switch.
Maneater is presented like a nature documentary, most of the time focussing on its main subject, a bull shark (you), and at times switching over to your nemesis, Scaly Pete, who is both responsible for your mother’s death and your appetite for human flesh. These scenes progress the narrative of the game and provide insight on the motivation of your opponents. They are presented as on-the-job-interviews with a nameless director. This director is also responsible for the snarky comments on your actions, surroundings or failures. Sometimes they are indeed educational with a tiny bit of shark lore. The often tongue-in-cheek nature of these utterances goes well with the over-the-top brutality of the game and gameplay.
This is a man’s world, but it would be a waste not to eat him!
You start your life as a bull shark pup in a coastal region called Port Clovis somewhere around Louisiana or Florida. You’re small and you’re hungry. You need to grow, so you swim around and chomp down everything that you can catch. Being a pup, you’re still at the low end of the food chain and other predators like barracudas or alligators threaten your life. Take care to avoid them at first. If that doesn’t work out, you’ll respawn in your grotto and try again.
Everything you swallow gives you experience, replenishes your health and gives you one of four different nutrients: protein (red), fat (yellow), minerals (blue) or mutagen (green). Different kinds of food have different kinds of nutrients, e.g. predators are high in protein while turtles not only give your teeth a satisfying crunch but also a lot of minerals. The kind of nutrient of each individual is part of the display together with its level and health. It is absolutely possible to have a balanced diet this way.
Eating a lot will raise your level thus making you stronger. You’ll grow from a pup to a teen to an adult to an elder and so on. But that’s not all. You need the four different nutrients to upgrade your evolutions to become the strongest and best equipped predator of these waters (and get your revenge on Scaly Pete).
Wait, evolutions? Yeah, Maneater being a video game does away with realistic depictions of sharks and lets you evolve your body as you see fit. During the course of the game you’ll unlock modifications for your head, jaw, body, fins, tail and organs. You can change your evolutions or level them up in a grotto if you have the right amount of nutrients to spend. Different evolutions have different benefits, some make you stronger, some up your defence, some allow you to stun your enemies.
Shark’s Tank or Tank Shark?
You’re probably asking yourself how you unlock these evolutions, right? Some of them are unlocked by progressing the story. You have to complete story quests for that. Some are unlocked by finding a number of collectibles in a certain area. Finally, others are unlocked by finishing off boss shark hunters. This is basically the meat of the game (pun totally intended!). To get hunters notice you, chomp down some humans. Hunters will come to get you in boats or even scuba diving in later areas. Get rid of enough of those hunter boats and a stronger boss hunter will come for you. Kill him or her, which will raise your infamy rank, and you unlock another evolution.
Grow, evolve, gain infamy, access new areas and finally chomp down on Pete. That’s Maneater in a nutshell.
This all sounds like standard RPG fare and it basically is! But it is also a tremendous way to enjoy yourself: Explore the vast areas, find collectibles in ever trickier locations, level up yourself to take down bigger opponents both in human form (boss hunters) and of animal kind (more aggressive predators). Have a small snack of beach goers or island dwelling hobos. The world is your oyster!
You are what you eat!
Playing a shark naturally leads to most of the game taking place under water. And what beautiful underwater world it is! Maneater features a vast array of different locations and all of them have a distinct look. From the murky and muddy waters of Fawtick Bayou to the hints of deep blue sea with marinas and aquarium basins in between, everything looks realistic. The world is populated with life and interesting landmarks. Contrary to that, the overworld looks rather generic and bland. But hey, you’re mostly there to invite a few unsuspecting humans for dinner, so that’s OK.
With so much of the action under water, music is mostly absent. The mute sounds you’d expect under the surface on the other hand are present and well done. Add to this the voice acted commentary and biting sound effects and you have a soundtrack that’s fitting the game perfectly. The only downside are the rather monotonous screams of your human victims. With the number you need to consume throughout the game, some more variety would have been nice.
You need more humans in your diet!
Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew. Maneater does so as well. It plays well both handheld and docked, no question about that, but sometimes you experience stutters. What’s strange is that the stutters don’t occur during fights with lots of hunters around you. No, they happen in areas later in the game after you used your sonar to check on your surroundings. It isn’t nice, but I can live with that. There’s another issue as well. Objects sometimes pop in when you get near and pop out when you distance yourself from them. It is most prominent in later areas with clear water and greater depths. This also doesn’t bug me too much. What really does bug me, however, is the fact that one, and only one, change in the settings doesn’t get saved: Changing the brightness level only applies to the current session. Start the game anew and it will be reverted to its default value of five. Why?
Maneater takes the bog-standard action RPG conventions and turns them on their head. The result is a solid entertaining action RPG with only minor flaws. Sometimes it’s not really clear how you need to progress in an area for the next story quest to unlock, so you waste time backtracking and searching for the unlock condition. Other than that, cruising through the water swallowing everything in your path is absolutely delectable.
- Beautiful open world
- Hundreds of collectibles to be found (if you’re into that)
- You get to play as an ever hungry beast
- Some evolutions are locked behind collectibles (if you’re not into hunting those down)
- Some stutters