This year marks the 30th anniversary of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. What initially started as an effort to promote the conservation of and correcting misconceptions about sharks has turned into the longest-running cable television programing event in history. It is also by far one of the most hyped television events each year, projecting a level of excitement and public frenzy comparable to that of the Super Bowl and March Madness. This year gamers can also jump into the hype in their own way as Ubisoft has surprise released the Future Games Of London-developed Hungry Shark World onto consoles. The Hungry Shark series has previously been a mobile-only series. As such, the game is a big step for the series and the studio. Not only does the game feature controller support, the developers have also said the title would support Xbox One X and feature a higher resolution on the high-end model. We, however, are reviewing the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
With that said (and in light of this being the first console-oriented Hungry Shark game), the most logical place to start would be the controls. While the controls are quite simple, they are smooth as butter and even give the player two ways to take a bite and receive a speed boost. In handheld mode, I found using the bumper options to tickle my fancy the best. However, having multiple options without having to change an entire layout is appreciated. It is also appreciated that each unique shark feels…well, unique. Too frequently in games such as this, multiple options feel either the same or too similar with just slight, lazy tweaks. By contrast, in Hungry Shark World, each shark feels like you would expect. For example, the Sand Shark feels sluggish and must eat more fish than the other sharks while the Blue Shark on the other hand feels nimble and quick. Another plus is that while it is great unlocking the sharks, an earlier shark may be better for a current task at hand for the player.
These missions and tasks are the core of the game’s progression, and that progression feels nicely paced and fair. While it may take the player a few tries on boss and mini-boss fights, it never feels outright unfair or impossible. It usually comes down to using the wrong strategy and/or having a bit of bad luck. These fights accentuate this Feeding Frenzy–like game, wherein the basic mechanics are as follows: eat fish, attack and eat tourists, attack bigger sharks who try to attack the player’s shark, and find fossils. Doing all of this helps the player survive longer during each session while they work to complete the aforementioned missions and tasks to progress towards unlocking new sharks and worlds. While the game’s genre is a bit hard to pin down, “Arcade Style Rouge-like RPG” feels like the best fit to get the point across, as it has arcade, rouge-like, and RPG elements all in one convenient package.
While that genre sounds intriguing, there are some clear issues with the game. The most notable is the excruciatingly long loading screens before and after each session. For a game that is not nearly demanding, the loading screens can last a rather unwarranted entire minute. What makes the loading screen even more unbearable is the fact that the game looks like a mobile game. If the game looked graphically demanding, longer loading screens might be more justly applicable, bearable, and excusable. There is also the fact that players may believe that (at first) they cannot track progress on missions while in a session because the track is tied to the map. What is on the pause menu you may ask? The controller layout. These should be switched, as players will rarely use the map unless they are on a specific mission and already know where it is at, and just need to see where they are in relation to it. Lastly, we experienced several game crashes during our time with the game- which is disappointing, especially given that it is, as I have previously stated, not that demanding a game.
Being a first-time player of the series, Hungry Shark World initially threw me for a loop with its mechanics and mobile looking graphics. However, once I started buying in on the gameplay loop the game became addicting to play. With that said, the issues with the game started to catch up to it in longer playthroughs where it sometimes felt as if the loading screens were longer than the actual session. This is, of course, more prevalent when taking a B-line to a boss fight, for example. While the loading times and crashing can be fixed with patches, we have to review the product at hand and those issues brings the score down greatly. With that said, if a player can look past those issues or perhaps engages in shorter plays, then they will be able to better appreciate the game in its current state. This ultimately leads us to score this as an above-average game. (Ryan Williford; Gaming Editor)
Review copy provided by Ubisoft; reviewed on the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode.