A Brave Commentary On Pica
HIGH Jumping twenty feet in the air, landing on a group of beachgoers, and chucking one like a football.
LOW The combat can sometimes be difficult to follow underwater.
WTF Sharks can double-jump?
Many games have attempted to be thought-provoking and ‘engaging’ by trying to tackle dark or difficult topics such as the ethics of war, or what it means to be human. As much as I love to see mature themes like these (even if they fall short of their goals) sometimes I just want to sit down and shut my brain off. For anyone with such a similar itch in need of scratching, Maneater may be just the thing.
Maneater is a title that knows what it is and embraces it fully. In this game I am a shark and I eat anything in sight or die trying. A tutorial level introduces the controls and various shark-related mechanics such as basic attacks, eating prey, and jumping out of the water to grab prizes (or humans).
Soon after the campaign begins, my shark is captured by some hunters and it turns out that she is a mother! Her baby shark is thrown back into the wild, but not before the tot retaliates by chomping off a hunter’s arm. And thus, the greatest shark-based revenge story in videogames begins.
Taking control of baby shark, we are free to roam around and explore. Instead of open water, most areas contain interlocking routes that can be navigated to reach points of interest such as caverns, supply crates, collectibles and sea creatures ready to fight. Interacting with all of these leads to earning resources and EXP needed in order to level up and upgrade the shark, offering things like increased size and even mutations that add things like bonuses to damage or status effects.
Combat plays out in hack-‘n-slash fashion, with the shark having a bite attack that can generally be mashed, but there are also options like a tail whip or a dodge that can be thrown into the mix to help clinch a victory when fighting higher-level foes.
While most ocean life poses no threat, dangers include things like other fish, alligators, and humans on boats and jet skis armed to the teeth. Aquatic beings are always around, but aggressive humans only come out after attacking ambient humans and building up ‘reputation’ — it’s similar to GTA‘s ‘wanted’ system. Taking out enough of these hunters brings out their leader, and if defeated, this leader will give a new upgrade component.
While the mechanics are straightforward and work as intended, the fact that this (usually) takes place under water adds a third dimension to consider, and without a strong lock-on system it’s easy to get confused and disoriented. It can be hard to recover one’s sense of direction without gravity.
In terms of this Switch port, overall performance was solid throughout with just a few technical hiccups. Occasionally enemies would be shown at a very low framerate, and there were a couple times where textures didn’t load in on an animal. Ultimately, Maneater was easily playable and I experienced no crashes.
It may not tackle deep, meaningful themes, but Maneater is a great way to shut one’s brain off and chill on the couch for a couple of hours with a simple (but satisfying) power fantasy. This fantasy just so happens to involve a shark who can attack sunbathers by dropping in them from twenty feet in the air…
Disclosures: This game is developed by Blindside Interactive and published by Deep Silver. This game is available on PS4/5, XBX/S, PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 5 hours of play was devoted to the single-player modes. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, and Mild Language. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is an action-simulation game in which players control a shark through story-based hunting campaigns and evolution cycles. From a third-person perspective, players explore oceans, eat sea creatures, and attack boats and humans. The players’ shark attacks by diving, biting, and/or slashing its tail at prey, resulting in large splatters/mists of blood. Some areas prompt players to kill a certain number of beachgoers or hunters in order to progress; other levels contain one-on-one battles against rival sharks. Cutscenes also depict intense acts of violence: a shark leaping onto a boat to bite off a man’s arm; a shark biting off a man’s leg; a bloodied man stabbing a shark while being chewed on. Voiceovers/dialogue contains some mature humor (jokes about defecation, urination), including sexual material (e.g., “My grandfather called a vagina ‘the little man in a canoe'”; “…they enjoy a steady diet of hypodermic needles and used pregnancy tests”; “The nettle’s tentacles can be quite alluring to curious predators… or jellyfish fetishists.”). Text includes references to drugs such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and fentanyl. The game contains several partially bleeped/censored words such as “f**k” and “sh*t”; there are also words in Cajun French that translate to “f**k you” and “sh*t” (e.g., “p*c k*e toi,” “m*rde”).”
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There are three control schemes that can be selected from.
As a lover of portable gaming, he plays on his Switch when he can and alternates between older handhelds when it suits his mood. He also enjoys playing a wide variety of games on PC, in particular strategy games like Victoria II. His favorite game is TWEWY (The World Ends With You) and he owns a copy of every version to prove it.
The humble Ohioan hopes to develop his writing and analysis through his work at GameCritics in his spare time, and also mess around with music production and maybe invent a new subgenre.