Puzzles with a bite.
Given the popularity of the action puzzle genre on the App Store I guess it was only a matter of time before Gameloft, one of the biggest players in the market, created their own take on the genre. But have they managed to get their teeth into it or does it just smell a little fishy?
Leaving the fish and shark related jokes aside, playing Shark Dash, a colourful physics puzzle game set in a bathtub, is actually pretty fun thanks to a simple touch mechanic and a simple goal. The idea is for the shark to remove all the mad ducks, who are causing our toy shark no end of trouble, and keep the bathtub to himself and his friends.
Pulling back on the shark will launch him in the opposite direction in a manner reminiscent of Angry Birds or any of the other slingshot based games out there. As he’s made of rubber, hitting a wall will allow him to bounce off in another direction, a technique that will need to be used to in later levels to collect all the coins (more on this later).
As you’d expect, things aren’t always in your favour. The biggest threat to your duck-free environment plans is the fact that the bath is (rather inexplicably) filled with mines and obstacles. Touching the mines will instantly result in the untimely demise of your shark, so either avoiding them or hitting them with another object is the only way to proceed.
There is also a maximum number of moves allowed for each level, shown by coloured lights on the bathplug. Once this has been exceeded, the bathplug will open, washing your poor little shark down with the water. This is a great little alternative to a Game Over screen.
Later levels involve different sharks who have new abilities. The saw toothed shark can cut through chains, opening up the possibilities for more complicated puzzle elements. Some blocks rise from the bottom of the bath when their chain is cut, which means they can be used to launch at mines up above. The addition of tubes that launch your sharks across the bath, platforms which need to be knocked down when they block the way and rubber rings which give you a turbo boost all come in to play and ensure that there is a constant challenge.
While the game does get more challenging as the levels progress, a three star system ensures that younger or more inexperienced players can still get by. Removing all the ducks will open the next level, but three stars can only be achieved by doing this in less than the set number of moves for that level and, at the same time, collecting all the coins. The three star rating can be a tough cookie to crack in later levels, providing the game with plenty of replay.
Gameloft has recently been attacked for making all their games freemium and Shark Dash thankfully bucks this trend. There are, however, In App Payments for extra coins. These coins can unlock an undo system which rewinds to the last move or, if really needed, skip a level. Paying real money is certainly the easiest way to gain these coins, but they’re also collected in-game, which means that they can still be used, albeit sparingly, without any extra cost.
Gamecenter is nowhere to be seen in Shark Dash. Gameloft have opted for their usual Gameloft Live connection instead to provide achievements, but it’s puzzling that there are no leaderboards in a game that is crying out for them. I’m hoping these might be provided in a future update. Updates are on the cards, too, as the last bathtub is greyed out with the words ‘Coming Soon’ implying a new set of levels should be available at some point.
Shark Dash is a bit of a surprise from Gameloft. It has a nice, balanced skill level, bright and colourful graphics and is fun to play, all wrapped in a game that isn’t part of the new freemium model. It certainly gives you something to get your teeth into.
- Sound: 7
- Graphics: 8
- Gameplay: 8
- Longevity: 8
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