Is Hungry Shark World the Great White Hope of coastal killer games or is it a bottom feeder? We've put some hours in attacking and snacking on the Switch, fully up to our gills in gore. But did it leave us with an appetite for more?
Released this summer, Hungry Shark World is a Nintendo Switch port of the popular mobile phone game created by Ubisoft's studio Future Games of London.
There's no being clever here - this is a world in which you are a hungry shark. And what does an apex predator do when it's hungry? No, it doesn't renew its annual subscription to PETA. You bite stuff.
At AltChar, we're not Monday people - so the Monday Shark meme is important motivational material for us: "Do Sharks Complain About Monday? NO. They're up early biting stuff." Given that, we're the right audience for some aquatic carnage. And that audience is getting a boost right now thanks to summer blockbuster The Meg - in which Jason Statham plays the guy he always plays, except this time he almost certainly needs a bigger boat.
You start the game as a humble Porbeagle shark, which is a Great White on a budget, and unlock both new sharks as well as a selection of upgrades very soon. How do you do this? You guessed it, eat stuff.
In fact, eat everything that moves - as long as you can digest it. That leaves some of the pricklier oceanic inhabitants out, as well as bits of plastic.
*Cue pause for a moment of ecological reflection.*
The good news is that humans are not only digestible, but in fact turn out to be most nourishing of meals, even if you need multiple bites to gobble them up fully. It's a Shark World, not a Surfer's Paradise after all.
So yes there are quests for each shark as you would expect, and yes there are new locations to explore, new creatures to meet and eat as you progress through the shark species. There are fun upgrades such as a jet-pack that allows you to fly like a, well, flying shark I suppose. And there's plenty of cosmetic fun too - the simple appeal of gorging your shark on pelicans while wearing a fake moustache and sporting a cutlass takes quite a while to get old.
If you're looking for some Sir David Attenborough level of insight into the lives and behaviour of sharks - then this isn't your title. If you're looking for some fairly mindless fun being a murderous sea missile, then Hungry Shark World delivers.
The visual silliness is at least partly at odds with the blood thirsty nature of Hungry Shark World. There is plenty of gore - although you can turn off blood effects. As a personal moral revelation, it turns out I didn't feel right eating a random whale. I had no such qualms munching on fat tourists. Make of that what you will.
Kids love sharks right? So is this title child friendly? AltChar used a four year old test subject. He loved the visuals and giggled with glee at all the sharky shenanagins. He almost got to grips with the controls too - these are as simple as you can get. Unsurprising for a mobile game port I hear you say, rightly so. We'd say six or seven and upwards, with the red stuff turned off.
On the downside, Hungry Shark World has a major loading time issue. Loading screen upon loading screen, I felt I was playing Fallout 4 rather than a port of a mobile game to the Nintendo Switch - a more powerful, dedicated gaming machine. Never thought you'd hear words the powerful and Nintendo Switch in the same sentence, right?
There is no instant retry of an already loaded map, and this is perhaps the single biggest improvement that the studio could make. From a technical perspective, I am not sure why you would unload an already loaded map, only to make the player step through all the menus again to try the same level with the same shark again.
There may be underlying technical challenges that necessitate this, but while people may put up with it on a smart phone, the experience on a gaming console as premium as the Nintendo Switch has to be better than that. If you can run Skyrim on the Switch, a mobile port of a sideways scrolling munch-fest with stick and two button controls should not be a technical challenge.
What this issue does is disrupt the desire for sustained play. Given that I average 4-6 minute runs with the shark, waiting 30-40 seconds to replay is a disproportionately long time and breaks the flow of the experience. The immersion if you like. Get it?
Priced at £7.99 in the UK Nintendo e-shop and and $9.99 globally, Hungry Shark World is not a bad purchase. For that price, you are getting a decent timesink, and if this type of game is your bag of oysters then there is very little not to like in terms of visuals, mechanics or gameplay. If the developers manage to fix the load times, then we would rate it considerably higher, however it gets marked down to a still very generous 7/10.