The day-to-day grind can be hard. You’re barely staying afloat at work, struggling to keep your head above water. You feel like a little fish in a big pond, dying to stretch your legs, to expand your boundaries. You’re hungry — always hungry — for more than you have. Future Games of London‘s Hungry Shark may not be the life change you’re looking for, but for a few minutes at a go you can stop your doggie-paddlin’. Dive deep, be the big fish, explore the wide seas, and be at the top of the food chain. You’re a shark, baby! And all the world is your chum bucket.
Hungry Shark is a casual game in which you (the titular hungry shark) eat anything and everything you can, wracking up high scores as you. Putting the nom on other oceanic inhabitants — including schools of fish, barracuda, pelicans, swordfish, anglers, penguins, swimmers, scuba divers and more — nets you points and temporarily satiates your endless hunger. Hunger and health are one, represented by a green health bar that depletes when you take damage and over time when you’re not eating. The ocean is your buffet table, but being a shark doesn’t make you invincible; swordfish and anglers fight back, jellyfish and sea mines are bad eating, blowfish are best eaten when deflated, and fishing boats can bring you to an early end. The more you eat, the bigger you get. But the bigger you get, the more you need to eat. And so the difficulty of the game is constantly ramped up as you play. Being bigger also makes it more difficult to navigate narrow caverns and to avoid dangers.
The oceans are a sprawling place, full of different habitats for different creatures. You’ll begin the game just offshore of a beach, but will quickly uncover paths to dark, undersea caves and to the arctic depths of Iceland. There’s a lot of exploring to be done in Hungry Shark, and ten unique items to find as you go, including a bicycle, shopping cart and the moon on a stick(?!). The controls are accelerometer-based and can be calibrated at the start of the game, and touching the screen will lend you a temporary boost of speed, perfect for making the attack on unsuspecting sea-life.
Fun Factor: Hungry Shark is just a lot of fun. There’s something satisfying about plunging through the ocean teeth-first, pulling everything you see into your gullet. You can accumulate performance-based score bonuses by eating in rapid combos, wiping out an entire school of fish, and more. Discovering the game’s various score bonuses is half the fun.
Graphics: The ocean inhabitants look fantastic, as does the ocean itself. The terrain changes as you venture further and deeper into the sea, keeping the game fresh and interesting to explore.
Short & Repetitive: A casual game in every sense of the word, there’s not much more to Hungry Shark than what you’ll see within your first hour with the game. You will always begin in the same place, and the typical session with usually last five to fifteen minutes. High scores are the object of the game, so your only goal is to eat has much as you can, for as long as you can. As a secondary objective, you can plum the depths for each of the 10 hidden items, but there’s naught to do beyond that and no surprises to be uncovered.
No Social Networking: Being a score-based casual game, the lack of support for OpenFeint, Plus+ or some other social gaming network is nearly unforgivable. Hungry Shark begs for leaderboards and achievements, which would increase the level of competition and help to sustain the game with additional goals to be completed. I vote OpenFeint, and if I don’t see it in a coming update, I might just find a shark of my own to unleash upon the Future Games of London offices.
Hungry Shark is a bloody good time. The repetition and lack of social gaming support drag it down as a whole, but there’s no denying the fun to be had with this game. Few casual games have held my interest as well as Hungry Shark, and I rate it one of my top choices for short bursts of gaming fun. I desperately hope to see OpenFeint support in a future release, and with the current itineration branded “Part 1″, I’m looking forward to seeing what future entries hold in store. It’s unclear at this time whether future episodes will be released as updates, DLC or separate applications.