May 27, 2022

Maneater – Switch Review

Maneater is as consistent in its ability to deliver the fun factor as the Switch’s inability to deliver the power requried to enjoy it

Reviewing a Switch game that has long been available for other consoles is a tricky business. Much like reviewing remasters, or even remakes ever popularised by today’s publishers, how do you begin? Do you review in abject denial of the other versions, happy to circumnavigate the elephant in the room? Or in direct comparison with them? The good news is, when the game in question has you role playing a blood-hungry man-eating shark, professional journalistic considerations are quickly forgotten for the dish of the day; fun. And fun is what Maneater is singularly about.

But before dive in, a reminder that how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. As such, ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt; this one included. So let’s review Maneater through the lens of more objective metrics such as; characters & story, gameplay, performance, then finally, graphical fidelity and sound design. We reviewed Maneater on an OG Nintendo Switch. For full transparency, this review was performed using a provided copy of the game. Let’s get stuck in.

Characters and Story

For those not in the know, Maneater is an action, 3rd person game with some loose RPG elements. Created by Tripwire Interactive, simply put you take control of a blood-thirsty bull shark. It doesn’t mess about eiether. The prologue jumps your straight in at the deepend, as it were. You immidiately take control of a fully grown adult version of the shark in question. This complete with full end-game bells and whistles.

Whilst this section of the game doesn’t last very long, it’s a great taste of what’s to come. It immediately gives the player an urgency to engage in the RPG side of the game. Starwars: The Force Unleashed did something very similar. Way back in 2008 Unleashed let the players control Darth Vader himself before stripping everything back to basics. So it is with Maneater, your adult adventures cut short as the games main protagonist, Pierre “Scaley Pete” LeBlanc captures your shark and cut’s out its as yet unborn baby.

Scaly Pete provides all the motivation we need to get our snack on in Maneater

But there’s a twist in the shark’s tail. This unassuming infant exerts immediate revenge on Scaley Pete, snapping at the shark hunter and escaping with his right arm. All of this is captured by the on-board film crew seemingly there for some sort of shark-hunting documentary. This gives us an early taste of the tongue-in-cheek hilarity that often hits the mark throughout the play through.

You then assume control of the infant shark, who will remain your protagonist proper for the full play through. You are set on a course of revenge, with the bountiful ocean providing the delights required to grow. Revenge is a dish best served cold, afterall. In other words, you are encouraged to eat literally everything in your path. To evolve, grow and meet your destiny with Scaly Pete himself.

Maneater presents immediately as an over-the-top, b-movie inspired romp that never fails to lampoon it’s own ridiculous premise. This is executed exceptionally throughout the 6-8 hours of gameplay. Better yet, its brought to light perfectly by Chris Parnell who narrates your adventures in this colourful frolic through Floridian seas masterfully.

Gameplay

Maneater is an action adventure open world game that carries some RPG elements. It is broadly split into a number of different biomes set (loosely) across the Florida Quey area. These vary from the swampy Fawtick Bayou to the densely populated Golden Shores. The game offers 8 distinctly different areas to explore in total. There are a host of story-esque missions to complete in each section. These can vary from finding and killing the areas apex-predator (usually a shark, swordfish, or aigator) or beaching yourself to take a chunk out of the human inhabitants.

Once the player has ticked a requisite number of these activities off of the region’s list, you will trigger the local bounty hunter. These act as mini-bosses and are a step up from the typical bounty fair that the player will encounter. This is triggered i if they prove too much of a local menace via the games “infamy” system. On that, this will spawn a number of jet-ski riding, gun-whielding shark hunters that, at earlier levels at least present more of a dining opportunity than any real challenge.

Kill enough humans and you’ll rack up enough “infamy” to attract the local bounty hunters

And eat you will. This is the main way in which your character will level up. The shark will need to hunt and consume other aquatic wildlife such as fish and turtles in order to obtain nutrients, namely proteins, fats, minerals and rare mutagenics. All of these act as currencies that can be used to obtain certain upgrades or simply to level up. These can be redeemed in your various “grottos” distributed around your domain. Upgrades themselves are a lot of fun, ranging from electric teeth to stun larger prey, or bone-hardened armour for taking on boats and larger, manmade foes. Boosts to this progression can be obtained by seeking out a variety of collectables, like discarded number plates or “caches” but there’s no urgency here and thankfully the game doesn’t inundate you with thousands of pointless side-quests.

Consuming everything in your path will guarantee you have enough of the nutrients required to fuel the insatiable killing machine you control in Maneater

As said it can get a little repetitive, but the variety of biome helps and you won’t spend too long in one place. Difficulty isn’t really an issue and over-levelling is not the grind some have come to expect in any self-proclaimed RPG. This does keep things ticking along, as well does Chris Parnell who’s lines are as witty as you might expect from a Rick and Morty regular. So despite a little camera jank at times (tricky and forgivable given the duel axes manoeuvrability of a sub-aquatic adventure) there’s little to critique where gameplay is concerned. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean there’s no criticism for Manhunter at all.

Performance

There are, unfortunately a number of performance concerns on the Switch. Whilst the graphics are toned down somewhat compared to the beefier Xbox and PlayStation versions, at times even this was not enough. There is fairly obvious, and constant pop-in. Frame-rate is ok for the most part but as the game progresses, and biome complexity increases it suffers increasing regular drops.

There have also been a number of reports of cut-scenes skipping, or freezing. Whilst I didn’t experience any of these myself (as far as I know) that’s a pretty poor experience for a game that lives on it’s one liners. But it’s certainly true that as the enemy count goes up, so frame rates go down. The trouble here is that at the start of my play through everything was swimming along nicely. But a few hours in the toll Manhunter took on the Switch just became more and more apparent.

The increasing human presence in the late game really pushes the little Switch to its limits

Annoyingly this does come at about the point where the receptivity of the core gameplay starts to grate. These two grievances combined do make the end game a bit of a chore at times. A shame, and something that is exclusively a problem for Nintendo. That said, if you’re happy enough to chomp your way through the merry seas, then this shouldn’t be too much of a detractor and at no point would I describe the game as unplayable.

Graphical Fidelity and Audio

Performance issues aside, and if we discount the other console versions for a moment, Maneater does look rather lovely. The sea shimmers encouragingly and the multitude of aquatic fauna swim with deft precision and grace. The biomes are as diverse in their colour palate as the commentary with which they are described, colourfully. Your shark cuts through the water effortlessly and shines in glorious render throughout the game.

Above the water it’s a bit of a different story, sadly. The human sustenance, in particular are rendered rather poorly with ample pixilation and each sporting a fairly ubiquitous facial model that crumbles under close inspection. In fact, character models on the whole, much like the gameplay itself become a little stale over time. There is landscape pixilation too, something that the beefier console version managed to avoid completely.

There are moments when this humble game really does look absolutely breathtaking

As for audio it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The music is all but forgettable, and this is a failing not exclusive to the Switch. Sound effects are for the most on point, and land on cue. Although a little more variety might have helped ease the sense of repetition. For example, the unending human screams grate a little faster than I might have liked. The highlight here is of course the voice acting. But whilst we can again shower praise on Parnell, one man cannot carry an entire game.

It’ fair to say that, beneath the surface there are more than a few rough edges. But that’s all they are; edges, and not the core focus point of the game at any point. In no way does this graphical inequity detract from what is, on the whole a very smooth, very colourful and artfully put together experience. It’s just not quite as good on Switch, a fault difficult to lay at the feet of Tripwire.

Conclusion – Maneater

So, clearly this is by no means a flawless game. But if you can look past what are predominantly porting issues it has so much going for it. Maneater such a unique experience, such an original concept that having it to play at all, much less on the go is a truly wonderful thing. Yes, sure it’s a bit repetitive at times, but so was Mario. And sometimes you just want to stomp on a few goombas, or in this case, chow down on some unsuspecting Floridians after a hard day’s work.

If a single picture could sum up the astehtic and fun factor of Maneater, this would be it

Manhunter captures that B-movie vibe perfectly. From the corny yet perfectly placed one-liners, the over the top bounty hunters with characters drawn in stereotypes taken from the last millennia, this is a game made thoroughly enjoyable by its stubborn refusal to take itself seriously. Yes there are side missions and yes you can collect abandoned car paraphernalia if you want. But there’s absolutely no pressure to, and players wishing simply to coast thought the game waiting for Parnell’s next witticism can do exactly that. The perfect dip in, dip out game made even more so by the Switch’s convenience

It is a shame about the performance, however, and not something I can in good mind overlook in reviewing the Switch port. I hate to say it, but if you want to really enjoy this game, pick it up on another platform. As this is a relatively new title for switch (and with a nod to Nintendo’s increasingly frustrating pricing policy) you’ll likely save a packet, too. Of course for this you’ll lose the portability, which in a game that can get a little repetitive makes short sittings all the more appealing. Nonetheless, a great game, easily a 7, even 8 out of 10. Just a little overstretched on the Switch, and for that, the score suffers. 6.5/10.

Maneater is available now, for Nintnedo Switch, priced £34.99.

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  • 6.5/10
    Overall - 6.5/10
6.5/10

Summary

+ Wonderfully original concept + Uncompramising fun + Great to dip in and out on the Switch + Voice acting as good as it gets – Repetition in gameplay and missions – Increasingly painful performance issues as the game progresses

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