Shark Dash: Angry Birds Killer?

In the animal kingdom, away from the safe haven that is the App Store, a shark would best any bird, angry or not. However, in the business of iPhone apps the rules have changed, the winged contingent are the dominant species of app and they rule the App Store charts with an iron claw.

The various incarnations of Angry Birds are the de facto standard for physics puzzlers but there is a new kid on the block snapping at their heels. Does Shark Dash sink or swim? Read on to find out.

Sharks Making Waves

Imagine it: Wading in the pool with your beau and BAM! Out of nowhere a flock of crazy looking rubber ducks pounces and before you can say Jaws you’re swept away never to be seen again — it could happen to anybody. Unfortunately for Sharkee, this nightmare is his reality and he must eat his way through hundreds of plastic ducks to win his girl back. Familiar? Yes. Significant? No.

Shark Dash: Taking the App Store by storm.

Shark Dash: Taking the App Store by storm.

The basic objectives of Shark Dash are not complicated and the odds are you have played a game with a similar system. Three stars are up for grabs in every stage and you must attain a certain amount in order to unlock further worlds. In order to complete the perfect level with all three stars, you must shoot the shark towards several ducks and coins and manage to eat them all.

Ducks are usually suspended above the water or in bubbles, but as soon as they touch water they naively swim right into the shark’s mouth. Eating all coins and ducks earns one star each, the third is awarded by virtue of using a set amount of shots to do so — a maximum of seven shots is allowed until the plug pops out and drains the pool.

Simple and familiar pull-to-shoot controls.

Simple and familiar pull-to-shoot controls.

Far from being an original concept, Shark Dash employs similar gameplay and controls to Angry Birds, using a pull-to-propel motion to fire the shark to the desired area. Controlling the trajectory and power of your shot is easy and depends on how far the shark is stretched; too much and you can miss the pool with the level failed. Don’t let the simple controls fool you however, the stages become vastly more detailed and complex as the game goes on. Throw into the mix several obstacles and hazards, and Shark Dash quickly becomes very challenging.

Obstacle Infested Waters

There are many different obstacles throughout the game, with new additions appearing fairly regularly meaning you must adapt quickly. Some are very simple such as the bubble; they suspend ducks within and are easily burst, releasing the duck into the water to be gobbled up. Others are more difficult to maneuver — the orange floats can’t be penetrated and you must divert around them, however, help is at hand!

Many levels have a virtual maze of speed pipes and rubber rings to be used. Both vastly increase the speed of the shark allowing you to take out several targets at a time in a domino-effect! This is a great feature compounded by the ability to bounce and slide off the pool walls if necessary adding a different dimension to the game, many levels are specifically geared towards these abilities but beware of the bomb, they can render you “Ducked!” You have been warned …

Use 'speed pipes' for effective domino-effect hits and avoid obstacles!

Use 'speed pipes' for effective domino-effect hits and avoid obstacles!

Later worlds feature a variety of different sharks that must be unlocked to use. One such example is the Sawy Shark which is required in order to cut through tough chains to release obstacles blocking access to the ducks. One feature that really impressed was the multiple-shark levels, in which you must collect the targets as usual but avoid hitting your fellow shark in the tank.

This adds an interesting and sometimes complicated dilemma to stages and one which is a definite plus for the game as a whole. Despite the many hurdles to contend with, the most formidable feature of the game is the simplest, completing the goals in the set amount of shots proves to be difficult and very frustrating!

All Teeth No Bite?

Shark Dash, though similar in functionality to several other apps, takes a distinctly more cartoon like approach to its design and user interface. Upon first use of the game, the colour scheme is fresh and vibrant and really quite exciting. However, after prolonged use this can become a bit monotonous and tiring to look at. Shark Dash isn’t alone with this problem, but it is hindered by the vibrancy of the design, whereas it’s rivals have a subtle scheme creating less fatigue in the users’ eyes.

In later worlds the complex nature of the obstacles, combined with the vibrant colours can be distracting as there is so much packed into the 3.5-inch screen of the iPhone. There isn’t a great deal Gameloft can do about this issue given the screen real estate available, though the iPad handles this a lot better.

Multiple-shark levels are a fantastic feature, adding a fresh dimension to the physics puzzler.

Multiple-shark levels are a fantastic feature, adding a fresh dimension to the physics puzzler.

The target audience of the app isn’t clear to see, the challenging nature of the game coupled would seemingly be a thumbs down for the children’s market but the design aesthetic, though tiring for me, is surely perfect for younger players. There are several cool animations throughout the game, when specific challenges are met and stages completed, directly appealing to children (and myself!) making it a generally fun game. If you are purchasing this app for your family to use, be aware of the in-app purchasing options which range from $1.99 – $9.99 for a pack of coins — not a surprise you want to see on your iTunes receipt!

Sink or Swim?

Overall, this game is enjoyable and challenging no matter what your level of expertise in physics puzzlers. Though seemingly unoriginal, Shark Dash actually provides enough unique features and little quirks to make it a great game in it’s own right. The comparisons to Angry Birds are inevitable, but the success it’s had so far is testament to the inherent playability this app holds.

Revel in the gameplay, it is rewarding and easily my favourite feature, but be wary of the design; if you’re not a fan of vibrancy be sure to play in short spells! Hopefully the control issue will be patched in an update but it is the only major functionality issue to complain of in an otherwise pleasing app.


Summary

A neat physics puzzler from the prolific development team at Gameloft. Simple, challenging and above all else, fun.

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