Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
Jaws has made a name for himself in making the ocean a terrifying place to be. Sadly, it’s also instilled the same fear when the shark’s name has appeared in videogame form. From the Nintendo Entertainment System to the Playstation 2, the name Jaws has caused us all to run away screaming. Luckily, mercifully even, there’s a break in that wave, since the recently released Jaws for the iPhone is definitely worth a play.
I always describe this type of gameplay as “crisis management” since you need to juggle multiple things at once and are in constant crisis, but it’s a lot easier to just say it’s Flight Control in the water. You’ll be rescuing people in the water by steering boats over them or guiding them to land, all while trying to avoid the big man-eater under water. It’s a well tread genre on the iPhone, but Jaws throws some cool curveballs that really helps set it apart.
The basics are certainly familiar, as you’ll be drawing paths for swimmers and boaters to follow while making sure to rescue the swimmers and keep the boats from hitting each other. The twist, naturally, is Jaws who periodically swims though the playfield (in time to the memorable theme song) in an attempt to eat one of your hapless humans. You can sometimes dodge him (or shoot him) but it’s always tense when he shows up.
The controls were for the most part spot on, which is actually saying something since there’s so much going on at once. Swimmers are controlled by flicking them which makes them move in the direction that you’ve flicked. Boats move by drawing lines around the screen, though they can’t make tight turns, instead making nice wide nautical turns. Firing the gun off the boat is also handled nicely as well, with you dragging a finger from the boat to where you want to fire.
Since it’s Jaws you really don’t have a lot of tools at your disposal to keep people alive, especially when your most effective move is to just get the heck out of its way. In a fun twist, if two boats full of people crash you don’t lose but rather all those survivors get dumped back in the water and you can be sure that drew the big guy’s attention. In a few levels you have access to a small gun boat so you can fire, but don’t get too excited. While you can fire and hit you don’t hurt him, a successful shot just makes him cancel out of his attack.
What I really loved about the game was how each level had a slight variation to the basic mechanic. In the first level you just need to guide the swimmers to the beach while avoiding Jaws, but later you’ll be out in open water and need to pick up swimmers in boats. Later on you’ll be near the docks and need to pick up swimmers in boats and then guide those boats in to dock to let off their rescues. Each level being unique is fantastic, but also exposes the game’s main issue.
The game is only ten levels long, and they all have a definitive end to them. So if a particular set-up requires you to save 20 people the round ends when you hit that number. So while it’s a ton of fun moving through the game the first time there’s really no compelling reason to play it again. I should know, I tried. I enjoyed the game so much after I finished I went back to keep playing, and got bored fast. The game really could’ve used some sort of survival mode where you rescue as many as you can before failing. It’s a pretty basic inclusion these days and I’m kinda baffled why there’s nothing like that here, especially when there’s only 10 levels.
That lack of replayability definitely hurts this release, which is a real shame cause I felt so good about it in the beginning. It’s a really strong game that, if it gave me a reason to keep playing, would be on my iPod for quite a while. But the lack of any sort of endless game mode just left me feeling sad that there wasn’t more to the offering. I still recommend it, but just with the caveat of there being a finite amount of fun to be had here.