The Great White Destroyer
Some killing sprees are about vengeance. Some, insanity. With Carhtoothus, the shark god, it simply came about through boredom. You're the "lucky" shark that Carhtoothus has chosen as his instrument of carnage and destruction, and your aim is simple - make him happy through an orgy of death and bloodlust. Carhtoothus doesn't care what you destroy. He just wants to see blood.
The Great White Destroyer (or TGWD from here on) is a very simple concept and rather fun with it. You guide our antihero, Shark, around a series of scrolling screens, and he chomps away at anything that moves - fish, crabs, seagulls, people... land enough kills to fill the meter at the bottom of the screen, and you move on to the next level. Simple! Just watch out - at first, very little is going to bother you, but explosions, fishing lines and shark hunters can all deal some damage, and later on even the fish will be fighting back.
Controls are simple to learn but quite tricky to master. Shark faces towards the mouse cursor and will try to swim towards it whenever you hold down the mouse buttons. You can vary Shark's speed by pressing left or right button, or hold both for full speed. There's no control for Shark's jaws - he simply snaps at anything he encounters. It took me a while to figure out how to get him to bring down docks but it's great fun when you do! If you do enough damage in a short space of time, you can trigger a Blood Frenzy mode in which Shark moves faster, does more damage and cannot be hurt - ideal for those encounters with would-be shark hunters.
The graphics are very cartoon, and (unless you opt to switch it off in the options) there is plenty of blood. Actually, if this wasn't cartoon it might be considered deeply disturbing (one level saw me biting a whale in half!!), especially when chunks of marine and human flesh drift away on the current. TGWD fails on the graphics front somewhat in its second game mode ("Mr Manatee"), in which Shark faces a series of Mr Manatee's gigantic enemies. These are giant sized versions of regular enemies, and as a result are horribly pixellated, to the point where it's hard to tell what some of them are. This took me out of the moment somewhat. On the plus side, there's a definite theme to the style of the game - the gore continues on the scoring screen, where the "softies" and "harshies" consumed are counted as Shark regurgitates the bones and shells.
Sound is where TGWD really picks up the points. Levels are accompanied by a series of rocking background tracks and there's plenty of great sound effects - from snapping jaws and the chirrup of dolphins to human swimmers at the beach yelling "Shark!!" (or the resigned "oh, crap..." as a yatch fisherman falls to his watery doom), they're all wonderful. Speech in terms of plot is just gobbledegook - it would be a huge increase in file size if not, as there's a lot of it - with subtitles appearing on screen as the characters yak to each other.
While it's quite hard to get the hang of TGWD at first, there's an ingame tutorial on the first level (skippable, if you've played before) and things start off nice and gently. By the time you've got shark hunters trying to shoot you, you should have picked up the basics and learned how to fight back. Sometimes you need to be a little cunning - you can't chew your way through a battleship hull, for instance, so you need to take advantage of humanity's own weapons... it is impressive just how much strategy there is to employ for such a simple control system. Should you die, you can continue from where you left off (though deaths will count against your total score).
With levels replayable once unlocked, there's a fair amount of life in this title. Apart from the urge to better your score - including such bonuses as getting human divers to shoot each other! - there's the simple pleasure of causing enormous chaos and bloodshed. Bad day at work? Chew a beach full of swimmers to pieces! Four difficulty levels will keep happy any gamers after a challenge, though if you beat the game on Easy you should expect little in the way of congratulations in the credits!
So far, so good - this is a game with some bite to it. But I did find it got a little samey after a while, and some of those levels are a little tricky to master. The controls took a little getting used to and I still sometimes struggled to get Shark to respond the way I wanted. TGWD also took a remarkably long time to load, though this is a minor gripe. Generally this is a well produced and utterly insane game with appeal to anyone that likes their blood spilled by the bucketful, and the blood can be switched off it you're more squeamish - but given the rest of the game's style, this seems remarkably pointless!
TGWD is a decidedly different offering to the usual indie developer fare, though it is definitely not suitable for younger children. If you're fishing for something unusual, this might be just what you need to be hooked. And if you try the demo now, I promise to stop the fish puns.
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