Maneater, or Shark RPG, is finally out. And while chomping on the literal bit can be a lot of fun, there’s also an awful lot of chomping to do.
Released last week on consoles and for PC through the Epic Game Store, Tripwire Interactive’s underwater adventure caught the attention of many when it was first announced. You’re a shark. You eat people for revenge and your own amusement. You eat people to level up. You eat to gather resources for upgrades.
Maneater is an uncomplicated game, which is a strength and a curse. The joy of the experience is in the simple act of having a constant, unbroken bone lunch that never ends. But Maneater’s ambition never really extends much further than that, which is where the grind starts to kick in.
The narrative arc makes enough sense: kill Scaly Pete for murdering your mother and scarring you as a baby shark. He comes out as a good villain through the reality TV-style cut-scenes, and the constant narration from Rick and Morty’s Chris Parnell sufficiently paints Clovis Bay as a backwater, bogan hole ripe for shark feasting.
So off you go, chomping at the bit in the sewage-infested yellow waters of Fawtick Bayou. From there, you’re given a series of basic missions to eat other marine life: groupers, muskellunge, barracudas, sometimes alligators, and so on. As you get closer to land, more humans will appear, and you’ll be given missions to eat those too.
It never gets more complicated than that, but it doesn’t get more involved either. All of the game’s missions revolve around going to a point on the map, eating or attacking a certain number of people/boats/fish/street signs/something, and then moving onto the next one. Occasionally you’ll get stuck into a larger fight, but mostly what is you’ll kill a human or two, attract other humans, which attracts more hunters, and then occasionally a mini-boss comes along for the chomping.
As the game progresses, your appetite becomes more efficient. Dodging through the air turns you into an electric shark. You gain the ability to truly soar. Boats are mere paper, faced with your steel jaws. More humans arrive, and you are given more powerful tools to kill them more quickly.
I say you’re given tools, because there’s not really an enormous amount of choice. Classing a game as an RPG indicates some kind of choice, or replayability, but that’s not the case in Maneater. You really have just one of two choices when it comes to equipment, but you’ll unlock everything you need before the end of the game. That lack of diversity makes Maneater a bit of a one-shot game: once you’ve eaten everything, you’ve seen everything.
But this is largely fine. I got about 10 hours out of Maneater. It’s not a game I’d see most taking the completionist approach to, given how repetitive a lot of the missions are.
Maneater’s still fun, but I’m glad it ended when it did. As long as you don’t have any delusions about the game being more of an RPG than it actually is, there’s some fun to be had. It’d have been nice if there was more ambition, like shark races or mini-games to mix it up.
Sharks are simple creatures, though: they see, they eat. They want for little in life. Humans, however, can dream of so much more.