Shark Tale is a story about Oscar. Oscar is a little fish in a very big pond. To make himself a little bit bigger he tells a big lie because he thinks it’ll bring him fame, fortune, respect, and love. Unfortunately for Oscar, life is seldom that simple and his lie ends up involving him with the mob as Oscar’s lie compounds.
Shark Tale the movie is animated by the incredible artists at Dreamworks Studio, so the game had big shoes to fill to reach that level of animation without all the hours and hours of rendering time. From the beginning of the game you’ll see that developer Edge of Reality has done just that.
Capturing the same vibrant seascape and color scheme while maintaining an unshakable framerate couldn’t have been an easy task. To accomplish this, the game uses side-scrolling 2D action with a few 3D missions dropped in for added measure. The animations on both perspectives are top-notch and a great amount of detail is shown to not only the main character but all of the other various characters Oscar will meet. The same detail is poured into the background areas, but the real show is the short cut-scenes in between the puzzle missions. I’m not sure if Edge of Reality or Dreamworks animated those scenes, but the animation level is top-notch and really sells the story.
Do you like 80’s music? Then you’ll dig Shark Tale as you’ll be hearing some classics that will just have you laughing out loud. As you progress through the missions you’ll be showing off some of Oscar’s exaggerative nature through dance missions, Fish Fu and more. The hook is that you can use the dance pad to play these portions of the game.
The first mission you’ll encounter with this style of gameplay, we find Oscar bragging about what he’d do if there was a shark in the area. He breaks out with the big-pants dancing as he gives his rendition of “U Can’t Touch This” from M.C. Hammer. Eventually you’ll be hopping around to some of Will Smith’s own songs as well as Ziggy Marley, Wild Cherry, OutKast, Sean Paul, The Fat Boys and more! Believe me when I say that the song “U Can’t Touch This” becomes the longest song in the world when you are hopping around on the dance pad trying to hit 75% accuracy. Unfortunately, if you fail to hit the minimum requirement, you’ll be hearing these songs quite a bit. Your nostalgia might wear a bit thin after a while, but the missions are not extremely difficult so your frustration should be minimal.
The voice acting in Shark Tale is pretty well done. The movie features the likes of Will Smith, Jack Black, Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie, and Peter Falk. Much like most game-to-movie translations, the main characters in the game are voiced by sound-alikes, but thankfully these voice actors put in a decent performance. There is nothing worse than having your favorite character voiced by somebody who could double as Mr. Moviefone.com. All in all, its similar to Activision’s preview game-to-movie translation Shrek in that the voice actors are just slightly off from the people they are impersonating. It is just off enough to notice, but not enough to matter.
The controls in Shark Tale are very simple. Given that the game is adaptive to the dance pad and made for the younger audience, the controls had to be designed to be fast-paced without being too complex. The 2D nature of the bulk of the game lends itself well to this. The first mission is a dream that Oscar is having that has him swimming away from a very large shark. Much like classic Dragon’s Lair, you simply hit the analog in the direction you need to move and Oscar will swim there deftly avoiding the chomp of his aggressor. As you might imagine, Oscar is controlled by the analog and is given various actions that he can take using the other buttons including a power-dash and an action button to interact with the areas around him.
The difficulties in the control section come from the dance sections of the game. If you are using the standard controller, you might find a great degree of difficulty in hitting some of these dance moves easily. It really is made for the dance pad, and you won’t get the full effect unless you use it. Thankfully, the three dance pads I tried out all performed very well and I was able to burn through the dance section and burn off a few carbs while I was at it.
Shark Tale is a fairly simple straightforward game that ties into the movie very well. Oscar’s adventure proceeds parallel to the movie storyline that is told through a series of comedic minigames broken down into four main categories. You have side-scrolling levels where you explore different areas to accomplish your goals, dancing levels that require some fast feet, fighting levels which feature Oscar at his cowardly best, and racing games which usually involve Oscar racing (or running away from) other fish as you dodge and weave through Oscar’s underground home. As I described before, most of the missions involve Oscar pressing in the right direction at the right time to keep Oscar from being chomped, bonked, or otherwise turned into chum.
The side-scrolling exploratory missions come in a few flavors but they all have a similar theme; a primary objective, a secondary objective, and an elite accomplishment. For instance, in one mission you’ll be chasing down some underwater ‘taggers’ (graffiti artists) who are spraypainting some very rude things about Oscar on the walls of the city. The primary mission is to stop all three ‘taggers’ and convince them to stop doing what they are doing. You will also have to erase all 7 of the spraypaint incidents. The secondary mission is to do this while collecting a certain amount of pearls. If you hit 300 pearls you also accomplish the Elite mission. It is fairly simple and any kid can cruise through these levels with only minimal difficulty.
Fighting missions round out the last mission style. As soon as you get to a mission you’ll have visions of Mike Tyson’s PunchOut as the fighting system is very similar. The aggressor is in front of you and you use the analog and buttons to throw them a beatdown. Just like PunchOut, you’ll have to dodge and evade to stay on your feet..er…fins.
The value and reply value of Shark Tale will be very dependent on how much your kid likes Shark Tale. Given how closely the game parallels the story, you’ll find that once you see the movie, you’ll have a good idea of where the game is going fairly quickly. The replayability comes from the secondary mission goals and Elite objectives. Getting some of these requires an extraordinary amount of pearls or a staggering 100% accuracy on some of the dance portions of the game. Those objectives will keep you occupied for a long while, so get used to “U Can’t Touch This” as you’ll be hearing it a lot.
There are 25 levels in Shark Tale and you’ll burn through roughly 4 levels in about an hour in the early levels. The later levels take a little bit of finesse’ and practice so those will take a little longer to complete. The animations alone are worth beating the game, and the simplistic gameplay and controls only boost that notion. The songs are fun enough where they will bring you back for more dance action long after you beat the game, and the PunchOut-like sequences will keep you in nostalgia-ville, population: you.