When I saw the very first trailer for shark RPG Maneater, my interest was immediately piqued. A game where you just eat people and cause terror in the seas? Sign me up! As the months went by without much information, however, I started to get a little worried--will it be as good as I want it to be? Will the underwater gameplay work out? What’s the story anyway? I went into reviewing Maneater cautiously optimistic, hoping for something great but not quite sure what I was going to get.
Well, I’m here to tell you that not only is Maneater pretty darn good, but you can literally eat the rich in it. So you should play it.
In Maneater, you start off as a little baby shark. Your mother was killed by some jerk shark hunters, you see--why couldn’t they just let her feast on humans in peace? So you hide in the waters, growing, learning, becoming more deadly in your plot to take down Scaly Pete once and for all.
The absolute best part about the story is that the cutscenes are presented like a bad docuseries. Do you like Tiger King? You’ll love Maneater. Sharks are kind of like tigers of the sea anyway, right? A cheesy narrator will comment on your shark’s progress and quest completion, and chapters will be bookended with “real-life” footage of Scaly Pete and his shark hunting business.
It’s appropriately ridiculous for a game that’s about being a shark. You can’t help but chuckle at the jokes the game throws at you, or grumble at the narrator for their scathing remarks when you bite off more than you can chew and die to another apex predator. It’s great and really spices Maneater up during its downtime.
Most of your time in Maneater is spent ticking off items on a to-do list. Each chapter (or episode, to stick to the docuseries angle) requires you to complete a number of tasks in order to see the cutscene that moves you on to the next area. Typically you’ll have a few mainline quests to complete, but you’ll also have to complete some side objectives, like getting to a certain level or finishing a certain percentage of tasks in an area.
It sounds like a tedious task, but for the most part, it’s not. Maneater provides you with more than enough collectibles, side-quests, and other tasks to do during each episode. More importantly, it’s very easy to find these tasks with a mix of a helpful map menu and your shark’s sonar (which, no, real-life sharks do not have). There’s always something to do just a short swim away from where you are.
The question is more whether or not you can actually do it right now. I had a rough patch early on in the game, when my shark was still a Teen, where I would come across a multitude of tasks but could not complete them, either because I was under-leveled or purely didn’t have the jumping and lung capacity to get to it. I also had trouble fighting aggressive enemies even near my level at first. As I tried to get the hang of dodging and tail swiping, I would be quickly murdered by nearby alligators, making for a bit of an annoying experience. Things can feel somewhat awkward control-wise at first, and dying while trying to overcome the learning curve can is frustrating.
However, when I decided to instead work on raising my Infamy Level (which is what you get by eating humans and messing up the shark hunters that come after you), Maneater’s difficulty began to even out. First and foremost, fighting hunters and dodging attacks feels way more satisfying than fighting alligators and other sharks under the sea. Secondly, raising your Infamy Level and defeating infamous shark hunters nets you some evolutionary rewards that make fighting a lot easier. Pro Tip: Infamous shark hunters are squishy humans just like the rest of them, so they aren’t hard to beat!
As you progress and level up, you’ll be able to earn the evolutionary items (through all sorts of quest completion, not just Infamy) and equip them, giving you various benefits and buffs. Whether it’s more health, electric teeth that can stun your pretty temporarily, or whatever else, these evolutions are essentially like equipping weapons and armor in a more typical RPG. You can spend your experience to upgrade these evolutions and make them more potent, as well.
This allows for some customization and the ability to tweak your evolutions to the task at hand… but once I unlocked the Bio-Electric Teeth and leveled them up, I didn’t see too much need to min-max my shark’s abilities. While the ability to change things up was nice, I just didn’t feel much of a need to as I progressed through the game.
It’s important to reiterate, too, that Maneater is a game of checklists, upon checklists, upon checklists… much like my eternal workload. While the game makes ticking off these tasks fun and not too tedious, when you play for a while, the gameplay loop can wear on you a bit. Episodes do unlock new areas to wreak havoc in and their own checklists to complete, which is good though. Sometimes an episode will have you go back to earlier areas as well, which is a power trip in its own right. You aren’t so high and mighty now, alligators!
Maneater is not a perfect game. It can be just a bit unbalanced, and you can start to see the gameplay seams on extended play sessions, but that doesn’t stop it from being a hell of a lot of fun. Maneater is simply worth your time, blemishes and all.
P.S.: Eat the rich.