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Just when you thought it was safe to switch on your phone... Jaws - the Game appears on the iPhone.
The object of the game is straightforward. Levels mostly take place on a single screen and you having to keep swimmers and other people safe from the Great White Shark that is hunting the seas of Amity Island. On some levels, this involves getting them to the safety of the beach by flicking them; on others you need to control boats as they patrol the sea and pluck swimmers to safety before Jaws gets to them. To progress to the next level, you need to rescue a set number of swimmers. Complete all the levels and you will come face-to-tooth with the fearsome shark itself.
I have to confess I didn't expect much from Jaws, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. It does of adapting the iconic film into a game that is both recognisably a Jaws game but (more importantly) fun. It might not be the most complex game in the world, but it's perfect for casual gaming: easy to get to grips, simple to play, and diverting enough. It might not be particularly innovative or special, but neither does it try to be too clever. In short: what it does, it does well.
Presentation matches the game - nothing particularly flashy, but it does the job. The famous Jaws music plays over the main title screen and helps to establish an air of tension, whilst the graphics are simple, but perfectly suited to the game.
Obviously, most of the game takes place at sea, so the main bulk of the screen is blue. It's played from an overhead perspective which allows you to see the whole play area and spot which swimmers are most likely to be at risk and need your attention first. Boat and swimmers are quite cartoony, which should be at odds with the gritty nature of Jaws, but it works surprisingly well. The shark itself, for the most part, is simply a shadow under the water, but again, this echoes the original film where the shark only seen in glimpses until the final battle. There's even an element of strategy built in as you have to try and predict which swimmers are the most vulnerable and prioritise their rescue ahead of the others
Sound is similarly adequate. The original theme music is a nice touch, but it's a shame that that aural quality is not extended to the full game. In-game sound is mostly limited to bog-standard seaside-type noises and the screams as people are eaten and the noise of thrashing as they are dragged under the water by the hidden menace. Again, the slightly cartoony nature of the sound should work against the game, but somehow it works.
The best thing about the game is the controls. These have been kept brilliantly simple, so that for much of the game you only need to remember two basic commands. To get swimmers to head towards the beach (or a nearby boat), you flick them in the direction that you want them to go. To get a boat to change direction, you simply hold your finger and twist your finger round in the new direction of travel. It's unbelievably simple and effective. It means that you can get into the game quickly and easily without having to think about which button you need to press next or learn lots of different controls through a series of trainer levels. It's clear a lot of thought has gone into making the game suitable for the platform it's on - something some iPhone developers too often forget.
The main downside is that the game can quickly become repetitive. Levels all essentially boil down to the same thing: rescue a set number of swimmers before progressing to the next level to do it all again. It's fun for a while, but the lack of variety does start to get to you. It's certainly not a game that you will want to play in long bursts, although it is a title that you will return to from time to time for another game. It's telling that I have had this game on my phone since early 2011 and whilst I only play it occasionally, would never consider it to be a candidate for deletion.
The other essential downside is that as anyone knows, it's a lot more fun being bad than good. Although rescuing people from is mildly interesting, it's not as much fun as being the one doing the eating. There are times when you can't help thinking that it would be a lot more fun to be the shark chasing terrified swimmers around. This is actually something which the developers have recognised, releasing a sequel that casts you as the titular shark. If you're only going to download one Jaws title to your device, I would recommend the sequel over this game.
Whilst it's nothing particularly special or innovative, Jaws is a good example of how to take a film licence and create a game which is perfectly suited for the platform it is on. Release this on the PS3 or Xbox 360 and everyone would think you were insane. Stick it on the iPhone and charge 69p and it turns into solid, fun little game.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013