Maneater is a shark simulator survivor game developed and published by Tripwire Interactive. You take the reins of a shark as you eat, swim, and fight your way through the game’s many waters. The Maneater Switch edition brings the game to a mobile platform for the first time.
This is the type of game that would have sustained me through long car rides and waiting rooms as a kid. It’s simple in concept but tough when you’re actually playing. As a shark, you have a few tricks up your sleeve to eat fish, people, and whatever else comes your way. There’s a plot, but this isn’t really the type of game where you remember what is happening in the story between cutscenes. Instead, your main focus is biting, breaching, and slapping things around to accumulate nutrients that make you stronger, mutations that give all types of advantages, and ultimately, survive against bigger and stronger enemies.
The game could have stopped at just being a static shark character. But I really appreciate the system of leveling up and growing. It adds both an incentive structure to the game to keep you completing objectives and exploring the world for collectibles and bigger fish to fry. This was the game aspect that kept me most motivated to keep going, even more than the mission objectives themselves. This is because I found myself very quickly outmatched by some nasty alligators. They took me out almost immediately at first. Still, as I kept respawning and learning how to fight them better, how to heal with other smaller fish between bouts, and that I needed to level up before taking them on, it became achievable.
I was actually rather impressed by the visuals of Maneater as well. The graphics are much higher definition than I would have expected. Where I thought they might be somewhat blocky or polygonal, it’s fairly smooth. The environments as well are pretty fleshed out with enough to look different from one another. However, they feel too large and empty with more interesting things in the great distance than in the immediate environment.
The controls are quite frustrating, unfortunately. Foremost, the only way to swim up and down is to use the right stick. It’s not natural, and it makes navigating, especially during fights, awkward and difficult. Also, the dodging and slapping moves seemed to stop working after a point, and it is way too easy to go into breaching mode with only one way to get out of it, pressing Y. It was very distracting almost all the time, especially when I rarely ever actually was breaching on purpose. I wish there were a button command to breach the same way there is to submerge so that it couldn’t get forced on me constantly. I appreciate that theoretically, there are so many different moves you can do, but ultimately it just felt like I only ever used the biting and couldn’t even get other moves to work.
The voiceover also quickly became grating. It’s essentially narrating what you’re doing but sort of giving odd shark facts? But they’re not really interesting facts? Progression also felt too slow. There are not exactly schools of fish swimming around to munch on to help build your nutrients up, so it all comes down to finding caches and attempting to fight impossibly tough enemies for bigger experience boosts. The early progression is locked behind reaching a certain level, but reaching that level was hard and not particularly fun or natural. And that lack of fish itself just made the game feel even more empty than the lack of exciting environment already contributed.
The Maneater Switch edition is the type of game that, as a kid, I would have played at a friend’s house and thought it was so cool but probably have rarely played if I owned it myself. It’s interesting and unique enough of a concept with some gameplay elements that keep it from being just a straightforward game or a straight-up simulator. It’s polished in some regards but rather empty in others—fun for a while, but ultimately, not the most captivating thing on the market.
The Maneater Switch edition is available on May 25th. It is currently available on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.
Maneater is the type of game that, as a kid, I would have played at a friend’s house and thought it was so cool but probably have rarely played if I owned it myself. It’s interesting and unique enough of a concept with some gameplay elements that keep it from being just a straightforward game or a straight-up simulator. It’s polished in some regards but rather empty in others—fun for a while, but ultimately, not the most captivating thing on the market.