Read on, Dear reader....
•• Story ••
For whatever reason, Poseidon, lord of Atlantis is a bad guy and angry at the world. So he calls upon his fellow evil sea dwellers to steal the magic if Sea World. It's your job to get it back with the help of your trusty manatee friend, Horacious. Shakespeare and Mamet this in not, but it's a good enough story to keep the kids engaged.
•• Gameplay ••
Shamu's Deep Sea Adventures begins with the world's worst game tutorial. Horacious narrates every possible move, trick, weapon, and defense in rapid fire mode. This tutorial lasts probably 7 minutes without the player once doing anything. My son actually said "Is he done yet?" And then after all of that is rattled off, the player then gets to practice each of the moves. Attention game designers: Give your player an instruction, allow them to try it, and then move on only when and if they get it right. Game Design 101, people, especially for a kids game.
After that, the game is broken into 2 repeating types of gameplay. The first is flee and pursuit. This is the first event and it starts off a little tough. Kraken the giant squid is chasing our lovable hero and the player is forced to grab Kraken Krystals whilst moving out of the way of the squid's attacks. This is done by moving Shamu toward each of the arrows that appears on the edges of the screen. The depth of field is a little odd since Shamu is flying into the camera with Kraken right behind. Cinematically, it's cool, but depth perception can be problematic. It's also a little frustrating to successfully avoid the squid to the end of the level only to find you didn't pick up enough of those stupid Krystals, so you have to do both all over again.
The second type of gameplay is exploration. This is the meat of the game and is the fun part for the kids. You'll need to avoid bad fish, crabs, mines, and eels. All of them will bite or sting you, depleting your health. All the while you pick up krill to restore your health and catch air bubbles to replenish your oxygen levels. You can also pick up keys which allow you to solve puzzles and postcards and statues which seem to do nothing more than make you feel good about picking up a shiny gold object. To help the kids find where they need to go, a handy arrow points the way. The problem is that it tends to be "as the crow flies" so it gives you an ultimate direction regardless of the terrain you need to navigate around. Several times my son bumped up against a wall and got frustrated because the arrow kept pointing in that direction. He didn't understand that the arrow pointed to his ultimate destination, but he had to figure out how to get there.
To help avoid attacks and bad guys, you'll have a whole arsenal of attacks including a flipper smack, a frenzied tail swirl, a nose bump, and a few others. These all basically do the same thing which is smash open boxes, or knock baddies out of the way. But they add a little variety for the kids.
The game is rather short, clocking in at about 6 hours depending on the skill level of the child. This may seem short, but keep in mind this is a budget title.
The complaint I have with the game is the uneven difficulty. The game starts out tough, even on easy mode. Several times throughout the game, you'll need to solve a puzzle involving rotating rings to form a pipe to let water flow in. This was challenging even for me. My 6 year old son didn't even understand the concept. This was a bit too difficult for kids.
So did my kids enjoy it? Yes and no. My boy got very frustrated at times and I was there to rescue his game. But he really liked moving Shamu around fighting the bad guys and picking up cool stuff. Enjoyable game for kids? Sure. Groundbreaking children's entertainment? Nope.
•• Graphics ••
The graphics are surprisingly good, but not great. The undersea world is extremely colorful and delightfully animated. There is always something moving on the screen and the world seemed to really come alive in wondrous technicolor fashion. Shamu's animations are solid and fluid, but hardly fantastic. Same with the boss enemies, as these tend to be blocky and repetitive in their animations. Not much time was spent on improving this budget title for the enhanced power of the Xbox, but at least it does support high definition 720p for use with HDTVs.
•• Sound ••
The music in this game is forgettable synthesized symphonics. Certainly not much time was spent creating a wonderful score, but it is peppy and fun for the kids. The Voice work consists of a single English dude who voices Horacious. His voice will follow you throughout, so much so, that you'll notice obvious flaws in the recording. They have a generic "You have picked up" voice-over and then it is spliced together with whatever object you picked up. This results in "You picked up. A Kraken Krystal." That technicality aside, the narrator does his best and delivers the lines with great gusto.
•• Multiplayer ••
None at all.
•• Parents Should Know ••
This game is rated E for Everyone and is safe for all ages aside from a few scary moments.
•• Conclusion ••
Despite a few frustrating design flaws, this is a decent choice for the younger gaming crowd.
What did you think of this review?