This is Universal's second attempt at bringing its Jaws property to the iPhone and this time, they've got it more right than wrong. The original Jaws saw you taking the role of the Amity Coastguard tasked with saving swimmers from the killer shark. This was a curious decision because (as anyone knows) it's always more fun to be bad than good and most gamers wanted to be the shark. Jaws Revenge puts that right, giving you control of the fearsome monster as it munches its way through the hapless visitors to Amity.
My concern when I first loaded this game up was that it would be a little too similar to the already established Hungry Shark and, indeed, large elements of the gameplay do recall that earlier title. You control Jaws, swimming from left to right along the screen and must eat things to keep your strength up. Targets include swimmers, fish, birds and even planes and boats; the bigger the target, the more points you will get for destroying it. On the other hand, if your strength reaches zero, you will die.
So far, so Hungry Shark. Jaws Revenge, however, has an extra element up its sleeve. Whereas Hungry Shark was a free-roaming game, where you kept going until you died, this takes a more level-based approach. As well as eating to stay alive, you need to complete a set number of objectives on each level before you are allowed to progress to the next. Mission objectives range from simple things like accrue a certain number of points by a certain stage, to taking out a specific target or performing a specific number of actions (such as sliding on boats) before the level ends.
This approach has both strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, the mission based approach feels slightly restrictive and linear. You can only move from left to right and have to complete the objectives or repeat the level until you do. As such, the on-rails gameplay can sometimes be a little frustrating (although, in fairness, a Free Roam option is also available). At the same time, though, it makes for a much more structured game that gives you a greater feeling of achievement when you complete a level and which is more suitable for shorter bursts of gaming.
Whilst the free-roaming aspect of Hungry Shark was a lot of fun, there were also times when the open-ended gameplay could become rather boring and repetitive. Despite one or two weaknesses, the mission-based gameplay of Jaws Revenge is probably the better option. It adds a greater sense of challenge and its short levels are more suited to gaming on the go - exactly the sort of title the iPhone is ideally suited to.
Having said that, whilst Jaws Revenge is fun in the short term, its long-term appeal is actually fairly limited. Not only does the gameplay become repetitive, but it's also rather short and not particularly challenging. Although it's reasonable fun whilst it lasts, most competent gamers are not going to take too long working their way through all the levels (I would estimate it took me less than 4-6 hours of total gaming time). Once you have completed all the levels, it's not the sort of game that you will ever return to.
In terms of the game, the graphics are nothing special but they do their job and establish a strong atmosphere. Jaws himself is nice and big and the various victims and vehicles are similarly well-rendered. They are perhaps sometimes a little on the small side but they have plenty of character and are easy to recognise quickly (essential on those levels where you have to destroy specific targets). Yet, whilst they work well within the context of the game, it's slightly disappointing that there is no real attempt to mimic the look and feel of the original film. At one point, for example, The Orca (Quint's boat in the film) puts in an appearance, but it looks nothing like its own-screen counterpart. if I hadn't been told, there's no way I would have realised it was The Orca, since it looks pretty much the same as every other boat that appears in the game. This is a bit of a waste of a licence and it's a real shame that a little more thought wasn't put into making the game look and feel like it belonged in the Jaws world.
Sound, on the other hand is fantastic. The main title screen is accompanied by John Williams' iconic score which immediately sets the atmosphere. Initially, I was disappointed that this theme didn't feature in-game, but the developers have come up with a different score which is fantastic. It's a lot noisier than the Williams theme (which suits the frantic, violent nature of the game) and in its own way, just as atmospheric
Sound effects are also brilliantly loud, making for a very noisy gaming experience! Swimmers and water skiers scream as you drag them to their deaths, vehicles explode violently after you have repeated pummelled them and, best of all Jaws growls ferociously every time he lunges after some prey. OK, so a growling shark is not exactly realistic, but in the context of this game it's a fun little addition.
Simple controls also help the game out. Holding your finger on the screen causes Jaws to dive and releasing it will make him jump towards the surface; the longer you hold your finger, the higher the jump. This is a brilliantly simple mechanism that (once you have got used to it) gives you a surprising degree of control. Essentially the only other control you need to remember is that a tap on the screen mid-jump will make Jaws lunge forward, allowing him to catch prey that is currently just out of reach. The controls are explained in the first couple of tutorial levels and essentially provide all you need to know about the game, ensuring that after that, you are free to get on with the mindless killing!
Jaws Revenge tends to fluctuate a little in price. At the moment, it's available for free and so is definitely worth downloading. The price has been as high as £1.99 and its standard price point is around £1.49. That's perhaps a little overpriced (99p would probably be a fairer price point) but there are certainly worse games out there. Of course, Jaws Revenge also offers the option to effectively cheat via in-app purchases (Grrr) so that you can power up more quickly, with these ranging from £1.49 to 13.99. However, this is not a game where you actually need to make in-app purchases in order to progress, so it's up to you whether or not you buy them. To be honest, I'd recommend you don't: the game is easy enough to complete without their use; powering up more quickly will only shorten the game's lifespan.
Jaws Revenge is a reasonable stab at implementing a famous film licence and is certainly a lot better than the first attempt. It captures the spirit (if not the look and feel) of its source material pretty well and whilst it's not an essential purchase, it will while away a few hours if you do decide to download it.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012