Game Plan's 1981 Shark Attack

Another one of the mega-simple games, this has nothing but a player-controlled shark and 4 scuba divers armed with harpoons on a plain blue background. You use the joystick to try and avoid the divers' spears and, when you can sneak upon their backs, use the "munch" button to get a snack. Every 7 stages of 4 divers you get a bonus shark.

Having the player enact the role of the "bad guy" in this case really brought attention to this game, and the little touches like the bloody munching of the divers and the shifty-eyed skulls that marked each stage, while cartoonish, gave the game a special appeal. Also, the soundtrack, a thumping beat that speeded up as the levels advanced and the divers got faster, created a satisfying tension (I recall some piercing screams as divers got killed). At the faster stages, it became a sort of turn-based game, as action would freeze when you chomped a diver, them quickly directed to the next one, chomp it, stop, then to the next... oddly appealing...

Missing Ingredient

Again, the problem is the sluggish gameplay. This game had some serious problems with collision detection, sometimes a spear would pass thru the shark with no ill efect, and sometimes you get nailed with nary a harpoon in sight. If the divers got too close to each other, overlapping glitches would occur. And the shark had to chomp a diver in just the right place, otherwise it would go away unharmed or, even worse, manage to kill you. And after the seventh stage, the action loops, with no more new enemies or challenges other than the ever faster divers. Some bonus items or rounds would have helped.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


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