Gameloft has had a shifting reputation lately, going from being known mainly for their high quality clones, to being thought of as a maker of obnoxious freemium titles. Shark Dash, however, shows a new side of Gameloft. It’s a cute, challenging physics-based puzzle game that’s original, charming, and a whole lot of fun.
Much like Angry Birds, the story of the game is set up through a series of short, wordless pictures. Mr. and Mrs. Shark are simply enjoying a swim when a group of mean-looking rubber duckies kidnap Mrs. Shark. Needless to say, Mr. Shark is very angry and intends to get her back.
After that silly and relatively unnecessary story, it’s up to you to take out the rubber duckies. Each level takes place in a bathtub, with various bath items placed around the tub. These items act as obstacles, and you must maneuver around them in order to eat the rubber duckies.
Rubber ducky, you’re the one.
To move around the tub, you tap and drag the shark’s tail to shoot him like a rubberband in the opposite direction. The shark can jump out of water, but be careful. If your shark jumps too far and lands outside of the tub, or lands on an item that keeps him out of the water for too long, you’ll be ‘ducked’ and force to replay the level. The duckies are often floating in soap bubbles or trapped under the tub by items. Once you’ve popped the bubbles or pushed the items out of the way, the ducks will swim right to you and get eaten. A level is complete once you’ve gotten all the ducks.
The items in the tub all behave differently. For instance, bars of soap can be pushed aside. Air bubbles have enough structural integrity to hold up other items, but can be popped simply by being hit by the shark. Bath salts maintain solid structure until they hit the water, at which point they simply dissolve. New items are introduced quite often, and you must learn how each one operates.
The real challenge of the game is beating each level within a certain number of moves. Each level has a title card, telling you the recommended number of moves to complete the level. Often this requires a bit of strategy. Each level is laid out so that if you shoot your shark in a certain way, it will set off a chain reaction that gets you all the ducks. Finding this perfect move becomes more and more challenging, but it’s ultimately very rewarding.
Going in for the kill.
Once you move further into the game, it becomes even more challenging with the addition of more sharks. Different sharks have different abilities, and some levels feature more than one shark. This means you must prevent the other shark from getting ‘ducked’ by your own moves.
Shark Dash uses the tried-and-true three-star system for each level. One star is gained for eating all the ducks, a second for retrieving all the coins in a level, and a third for completing it in the set amount of moves. The three-star system isn’t new to physics-based puzzlers, but it does make the game more challenging and forces perfectionists to replay levels until they earn all three stars.
Above all of the challenge and cleverness of the game, it will win you over with its cute aesthetic. Even though you’re a shark eating ducks, you’re a cute shark. Once you get more than one shark in a level, you can earn bonus points by getting the sharks together in the same part of the tub, causing an adorable animation to play. There are lots of these animations in the game, and finding them earns you bonus points.
Shark Dash is an unexpected treat from Gameloft, featuring cute characters and a challenging series of levels. Don’t let the cuteness fool you. This game is tough at times, but it’s well worth it. There is an amazing feeling of satisfaction once you cause that perfect chain reaction and beat a level.