Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Jaws Unleashed

The least entertaining part of most platform games come when you have to go underwater. Suddenly you have to worry about getting your bearings in a 3D landscape and modulating depth, so disorientation happens immediately and full-blown vertigo sets in soon afterward. Clever games like last year's God Of War solve many of these issues with a fixed camera, which keeps you from having to spin around in circles to get going in the right direction. By contrast, it's hard to get through a 15-minute session of the disastrously misconceived Jaws Unleashed without feeling like you're about to vomit; as the shark, you're constantly underwater at various depths, and the 360-degree self-operated camera would be painful enough if it weren't also glitchy and subject to freeze-ups. The perverse anti-heroic fun of gobbling tourists as a great white might seem like a hard fantasy to screw up, but developer Appaloosa (Ecco The Dolphin) invites you to count the ways.

Cribbing bits and pieces from all four Jaws movies, Jaws Unleashed returns to New England's Amity Island 30 years after the shark ravaged its shores and drove away the lucrative summer crowd. In concert with the nefarious corporation Environ-Plus, the mayor has launched a massive campaign to return the island to its former glory, in spite of a marine biologist's warnings. You begin in captivity as a tourist attraction, viewable from an underwater tunnel, but as Jaws 3D taught us, it's best not to tap the aquarium. Once freed, you protect your ocean domain by feasting on vessels, thwarting Coast Guard shark hunters, and ravaging the occasional swimmer or party boat. The attack modes boil down to minor variations on head-butting and tail-whipping, and you track victims via "shark vision," which gives you focus through blurriness.


Beyond the game: Remember how irritating it was when the shark in Jaws: The Revenge had thoughts, and did things no shark would ever do? Now you know how it feels.

Worth playing for: Leaping onto platforms, dragging shrieking victims into the deep, and tearing them into bloody pieces somehow never gets old.

Frustration sets in when: The aforementioned camera and perspective problems are the worst, but the "hunger meter" seems to fill up and dissipate so arbitrarily that you never know what your stomach needs.

Final judgment: A golden opportunity to revive the original blockbuster franchise turns into yet another half-hearted movie-to-video-game adaptation.