Quite possibly the most definitive and only shark-simulator app you’ll ever need for mobile
The Only Shark Solution
When a game’s title itself utilises language that would lead its prospective players to believe that it is the final and only solution to its genre, then you’d better hope the developers of this game have come up with something pretty spectacular. The reason I say this is because when you hear a name like “Ultimate Shark Simulator”, you’re being led to believe that this app is the best and only shark simulator app you’ll ever need. I find the title reasonably accurate, since in the review below I touch upon the game’s admirable selection of sharks, its immersive 3D underwater environments, and the predatory gameplay that leaves pools of blood in the water and owners of the app feeling like the 89p price is definitely worth it.
Straight-Laced, No-Frills Gameplay
What you’ve got in the gameplay here is a straight-up simulator with none of the arcade-like frills you’d expect to find in other light-hearted shark games such as Hungry Shark Evolution. Without much flash and a distinct absence of any background music, you’re presented with an ocean landscape and your very first shark. You begin with a tiger shark, and it’s up to you to navigate the ocean environment, consuming prey as you go. Your goals are multifarious, though they are primarily to survive and to eat prey in order to keep your hunger levels down and the experience points rolling in.
You gain experience in the game by devouring prey. Once you’ve gained a certain quantity of experience points, your shark levels up, and you’re able to allocate various stats points to your shark. This is really the main aim of the game, and you’re left to work this out after a very small tutorial at the start. Think of it as a freeform shark game that doesn’t have classic levels or stages in the classic sense. The goal is to simply find your own way in the game, though you’ll soon discover there are more things to do other than straight-up killing. These include things like bonding with other sharks, and even shark breeding. You can’t do any of this advanced stuff until you reach a minimum level, however, so it’s best to orientate yourself with the controls and the attack system first. Continue Reading
Release Date: 16/07/2016
Available on: iOS, Android
Keeping Attacks Under Control
The control system is simple in its approach, utilising on-screen buttons to do the majority of the movement and attacking. The on-screen joystick sits in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, while the attack button is on the right. There’s also a Toggle Movement button, which switches between slow, free-moving controls and automatic forwards momentum that’s great for attacking. Tap the attack button when you’re travelling at pace, and it will allow you to perform a so-called Pounce Attack.
My biggest contention with the controls, however, lies in the the Up and Down arrows that control your submersion and your ascent. Having these separate buttons makes for some very fiddly movement, but this only becomes apparent when you’re attempting to carefully control your swimming direction in order to cross paths with prey in the distance. You end up having to flick between using the D-Pad and tapping the Up and Down arrows, and then annoying having to switch your thumb to pressing the attack button. This is really off-putting in terms of timing, and in the heat of an attack, it makes things very frustrating (particularly if you’re at a low level and aren’t very strong/can die easily).
The game isn’t just about attacking and leveling up for the sake of it, however. Once my rage about the fiddly controls subsided, I quite enjoyed learning that there’s a lot more going on under the surface of this app than meets the eye. In addition to upgrading things like your health and stamina, for example, you’re able to add sharks to your “Shark School”, though only once you reach a certain level. Bonding with sharks is achieved by lowering their health to 50% to display your dominance, then grabbing them and waiting for the three green lights after you’ve tangled with them for some time. Breeding is also possible, and allows you to increase your shark collection.
There are also various other things to be unlocked, ranging from special attributes to skill upgrades. The standard Tiger Shark, for example, can upgrade his Electroreception, Quick Recovery, and Taste of Blood skills, though only when you’ve earned enough points through levelling up to allocate them to your chosen attributes.
There are also lots of in-game options to choose and/or customise your experience with. You fiddle with things such as the camera orientation (even switching to first-person if you fancy), graphics quality, and toggle options like water quality, blood, shadow, and the recording of your attacks. As for shark selection, there are around 7 sharks in all, including Hammerhead, Great White, Blue Sharks, and Whale Sharks to add to your collection.
The World Itself
What USS does better than Hungry Shark World is that it gives the player true freedom to roam in a 3D environment. While that environment can be exhausted in probably 10 hours worth of play, it is still far larger than than of Hungry Shark and some of the terrain is a varied enough to make you feel like there are secrets to be found at every corner of the map. Some of the terrain sinks deep into the ocean floor where you will find great dangers such as the Kraken boss. Bosses like this feel really intimidating because they come across as gigantic compared to your own shark and diving deep into the ocean the light dissapears and all that is left is darkness and danger.
Boss Fights Feel Real
Boss fights in the game are not based on how many powerups you have but more of strategy purely based on how well you can maneuveur your shark. This allows for a sense of realism and tension when fighting bosses. There are enough of them to keep the game fresh while finding them is not so easy, they don't just have a sign up saying "open for business" unlike Hungry Shark Evolution and World, where we offer up such suggestions on how Future Games of London can improve on both games in Hungry Shark 2.
A Change of Pace
What I will say about GlutenFree Games’ Ultimate Shark Simulator is that although it’s an extremely comprehensive shark simulation containing pretty much everything you’d ever want to do in terms of controlling a shark, it’s not an instantly-gratifying arcade-level game. Expect to spend a bit of time getting used ot the controls, and spending a while moving slowly through the water, picking off small fish since you’re too weak to survive attacks from even smaller sharks in the early stages.
The graphics here are fantastic, however, with full 3D environments, wonderfully accurate shark models, and a realistic physics engine powering it all. It’s a change of pace from more instantly-gratifying shark games out there such as Depth (you really set your own pace here), but it’s probably the only true shark simulator available for mobile that’s worth your time. Rating: 78/100