Coming from Future Game Of London (FGOL) and published by Ubisoft, Hungry Shark World is the sixth installment in a series of games that had completely passed me by. Honestly, if I hadn’t been scratching around trying to find games featuring dolphins for a piece I wrote for National Dolphin Day I’d probably have missed this as well. And, without wishing to provide spoilers at this point, that would have been a shame. So come with me to a world of Hungry Sharks, and an ocean teeming with prey items, as we try and stay alive.
The basic premise of Hungry Shark World is a fairly simple one. You are a shark, and need to eat to live. And I mean exactly that, as if you don’t eat your life bar diminishes, and the only way to refill it is to snack upon some of the copious amounts of life surrounding you. These prey items range from crabs and tiny fish right the way up to humans out for a peaceful swim. Obviously the bigger the thing that you eat, the more health you will gain. Small fish and crabs are eaten automatically, just by swimming into them, but larger creatures and people require you to use your Shark Attack move. This allows you to grab a large prey item, savage it for a bit, then repeat if necessary to finish it off. Usually, people swimming on the surface of the ocean require only one attack, but the frogmen in their scuba gear need two. As you explore the regions, you will come across animals you can’t eat, such as larger crabs or jellyfish, but luckily the answer to these is usually to unlock a larger shark and come back later.
Unlocking new sharks is a great deal of fun, and requires either a lot of exploration, to find a collection of fossils, for instance, or to win a kind of boss fight. These are multi-stage things; normally starting by you finding a message in a bottle, which then leads you to a shark cage, usually guarded by a number of larger sharks that you have to defeat. This is done before smashing the cage to free your compatriot, generally unlocking them for use in the levels. The fights are pretty tricky though, with a lot of jellyfish or mines in the area, requiring you to get a good idea of what’s going on in relation to your shark, as well as being aware of where the bosses are. Thankfully you’re able to break off from the fight and go and eat your fill with the bosses patiently waiting for you if you do.
As new sharks are unlocked, not only can you eat bigger prey, you can also break through more substantial piles of rock, allowing you to explore more and more of the areas. There are four separate areas to unlock, by scoring high enough in the previous area, and range from an idyllic Pacific lagoon to the chilly Arctic Ocean. Exploring every inch is very much recommended, as there are treasure chests to find, gold to locate and lots of secrets to discover, not least of which because your shark can also continue attacking people on land. There’s nothing funnier than seeing your shark waddling across a beach, biting the ankles of unwary bathers and eating policemen. As you advance in the game, the humans do start to fight back, with the police shooting you, frogmen firing harpoons underwater, and jetskis crashing into you. Seeing your shark sail through the air, taking someone off the back of a jetski or even demolishing a fishing boat, never gets old. And if you find your way into a swimming pool, well it’s like shooting fish in a barrel…
Each shark that you unlock comes with a list of missions, requiring you to perform kills in a weird and wacky way, in a certain location, to collect specific items in one swim (such as the letters H,U,N,G,R and Y) or even just to survive for a certain amount of time. There are plenty of options open to try, and quite often you’ll find yourself going back to earlier sharks as you unlock certain accessories that can be equipped. These are very amusing, and come in different sets, such as warrior, clown, pirate and so on. If you’ve never played a game as a shark with a clown’s red nose on, what even are you doing with your life? So, having certain items also give you perks, the pirate outfit helping detect certain items, and the clown set delivering extra damage to a boss fish. Mixing and matching your outfit to suit your current set of missions is certainly recommended, but it is possible to find a set that gives you a balanced set of perks and that will allow you to survive longer. Each part of the kit costs a certain amount of gold, which your shark can find in the ocean, opening treasure chests and eating golden fish to gain coins. Getting a “Gold Rush” turns all the creatures nearby into gold animals, and a “Mega Gold Rush” turns literally everything into gold, including mines and creatures you can’t normally eat. These are the surest ways of accruing a nice stash of gold.
And that’s pretty much it for Hungry Shark World. With many, many sharks to unlock, a variety of different cosmetic items to unlock and buy, and four large worlds to explore, there’s a lot to go at here. It has an appealing graphical style, with each shark having a distinct look and personality, and the enemies being a varied bunch. If I’m being brutally honest, Hungry Shark World on Xbox One isn’t the deepest game you’ll ever play, but there is a great deal of fun to be had and eating anything that moves never gets old.