Developer: Tripwire Interactive, Blindside Interactive
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
It’s been just over a year since Maneater made its initial splash on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Now developer and publisher Tripwire bring their carnivorous adventure to Nintendo Switch. Like many other titles that share a similar journey, there are typically technical compromises that need to be made, but luckily Maneater doesn’t bite off more than it can chew. While there are expectedly diminished visuals, the vicious and over-the-top gameplay remains intact.
For those that missed out on Maneater the first time around, you play as a shark seeking revenge for the death of its mother at the hands of prolific shark hunter Scaly Pete. The narrative is silly and simple, but it is exactly the kind of premise you want for a game where you raise carnage as a berserker shark.
Maneater’s open-world is broken into various sections, each with different prey to feast upon. You start as a baby shark, but you level up and grow as you eat and gain experience. Attacking and devouring animal or human victims makes up the majority of gameplay, and while it may be repetitive, I always found it extremely satisfying. Potential prey can also fight back. If you eat enough humans, hunters are sent after to take you out. Other marine predators are also looking for a quick meal and can be challenging when under-leveled.
The major deviations in the Switch version come down to graphics and performance.
Controls feel pretty solid, but Maneater on Switch still lacks an auto-lock feature which can at best make battles feel naturally chaotic and, at worst, a bit awkward. With this said, I could see where having auto-lock may make confrontations a bit too easy and maybe less interactive for the player. All in all, it isn’t a huge deal once you get the hang of it and, in some ways, keeps the mechanics from being too mindless.
Chomping down on creatures and humans gives you materials to use during leveling sections, but you can also acquire items through side missions. Most of these missions are essentially glorified scavenger hunts, but they can be strangely addicting. While some items may be in plain sight, others require you to use your sonar to uncover them, forcing you to sometimes really investigate. For the most part, these collectibles are completely optional but are highly encouraged, with the narrator Chris Parnell adding little quips and descriptions upon each find. His voice additionally keeps you company throughout your entire journey.
During gameplay, the frame rate is typically consistent, except for high-action areas.
Adding to the zaniness of Maneater is the leveling up process. You can add fantastical upgrades to your shark, like electrified jaws or poison fins. Like the rest of the game, it’s over-the-top but is a ton of fun and adds a small amount of strategy to your gameplay. You have limited ability slots available at a time, so depending on your mission, you may switch up evolutions, giving you a bit of variety.
The hunters that search for you are essentially cartoon-like characters, each with their theme and trope. This works well for your violent dismemberment and detachment as most never come across as a “real” person. This is why sometimes the little narrative here actually made me feel for Scaly Pete and his son. It’s a little embarrassing to admit for such an exaggerated game, but those scarce moments are surprisingly effective.
The major deviations in the Switch version come down to graphics and performance. Off the bat, I was concerned when the intro logos were presented in an extremely choppy fashion. But instead of this being a worrisome premonition of things to come, I was surprised to see the frame rate increased in the intro cinematics and later gameplay. They still aren’t nearly as smooth as they are on other platforms, but it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought.
During gameplay, the frame rate is typically consistent, except for high-action areas. During these times, there can be subject to rare drops or millisecond freeze from time to time. While this may sound concerning, I can’t recall any time that it affected my gameplay to a significant degree, but it’s certainly something to consider for those less forgiving of frame rate drops.
Most apparent when compared to its console counterparts is the actual environments that surround you. Flora and fauna are visibly less vibrant and don’t stand out nearly as well on the Switch. Similarly, it seems as though overall colors are more monochromatic, especially when submerged. While still pretty, areas can sometimes be washed out.
There’s a clever use of fade in the distance to help mask some of these graphical limitations. It actually took me a minute to realize how prevalent this was, but it’s a bit clearer in some sections. When looking down from certain angles, you can abruptly see environments pop into view, breaking the otherwise seamless immersion. Predictably all graphical quirks are highlighted in portable mode, where I experienced the majority of my playthrough.
This brings up the main breakdown of players and their preference for Maneater. If you want the flexibility of playing on the go and a dip in graphics aren’t a huge issue, then the Switch version of Maneater is a great option. If higher definition environments and deeper contrasting colors are necessary for your gameplay, then you might want to consider another port if that’s an option.
Maneater is the equivalent of a satisfying popcorn flick. It promises all the gameplay one would imagine when assuming the role of a killer mutant shark. Thrashing helpless victims and dominating other vicious predators still make for a ridiculously entertaining adventure. Even acknowledging the graphical inferiorities, the foundation of Maneater’s gameplay is enjoyable enough for it to still be a pretty solid experience. If you are concerned about testing the waters on this deep-sea Switch port, don’t worry, there’s a lot of massacring mayhem to be had.
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