101 Shark Pets Review
Posted by Zach Kaplan
Part virtual pet, part mini-game compilation, 101 Shark Pets cobbles together enough halfway-decent features to create a slightly above average game that younger audiences ought to enjoy. While its individual parts could never hold up on their own, within their sometimes fun framework they just manage to make this a passable title.
As with every computerised animal you've ever adopted, your constant responsibility is to see that your little friend stays healthy and content. The top screen displays seven meters that you're to make sure are as full as possible as often as you can – hunger, thirst, bladder, sleepiness, hygiene, happiness and health. Your shark will progressively upgrade to higher levels, at which point it becomes more difficult to care for as you'll need to buy better items to fulfil its needs and tend to each increasingly often. You'll win money in mini-games and trick competitions (essentially, more mini-games), and every once in awhile you'll have to pay a visit to the vet, during which you'll play – you guessed it – more mini-games.
Some of these excursions are somewhat fun, though none are exactly outstanding. There's a memory-testing card-matching game and a non-jigsaw picture puzzle, which are just as moderately fun as this type of game has always been. Then there's the brief and forgettable Motorboat Ride, in which you'll pilot a remote control toy cruiser around a very small pool as your shark tries to catch it. Treasure Hunt, which feels like a moderately enjoyable Flash game, involves moving the stylus about the touchscreen, searching for coins and attempting to avoid mines within the small circle of space that the pen illuminates. The worst of the bunch is Slalom, in which your shark slowly swims down an obstacle course as you draw gestures for it to follow. It's very unresponsive, only reading your commands about half of the time and providing a good deal of frustration. Each has three difficulty levels, adding some variety.
Including more activities to strengthen your bond with your new friend would have helped bring the game to life – instead, it often fails to transcend the feel of a simple mini-game compilation. Visiting the vet has similarly little to do with your pet, featuring two moderately amusing diversions that involve tapping hearts and bacteria.
Teaching tricks is a similarly unremarkable experience. You'll draw gestures that correspond to certain feats and click a button to give it a thumbs up or another to reprimand it depending on how it responds. You can also feed it fish as a reward, which seems to have no real effect. It's one of the better parts of the game, however, as your time here is limited by the shark's vitality meters, providing an extra challenge and tying everything together a bit more. How well it knows each of the eight tricks will determine how it fares at competitions, at which you'll have it perform a series of feats followed by another game tasking you with guiding it towards good fish and away from spiky ones, providing a fun diversion.
You'll use the money to buy food, water, cleaning brushes and other items of varying quality which you'll unlock after each successfully completed activity. While plentiful, however, they're mostly unremarkable: decorations and lairs (you know, those things that you put in aquariums to conceal water filters) improve the shark's well-being but otherwise just sit around, never attracting its attention. Clothes are fun but serve no real purpose. All the food and water that you unlock goes into a frustratingly unordered list, and none of them are interesting whatsoever. What's the point of having a great amount of items to use when they mostly amount to different stock pictures of fish food containers and water bottles? You'll just end up searching for the highest quality, least expensive option every time.
Another aspect of the game that provides far less variety than it advertises is the shark assortment itself. Rather than including one hundred and one unique animals, you pick between eleven species, ten tints and whether it's male or female, and each one behaves the same as the others. There are also four areas in which you can take care of your pet, but the game will continually return you to the main pool. Also, while the instructions mention a beauty contest, we never came across it. We contacted Teyon about this, who explained that these were accessible in the same way the skill competitions – though we never saw this occur, even after the many hours that we spent evaluating the game.
The presentation is mostly impressive, with bright colours and catchy, cheery music. The shark swims about happily or splashes angrily, but never does anything much more interesting. Costumes sometimes jut through surrounding objects, the vet's pulse monitor is loud and obnoxious and it's always jarring to see the cartoon image of the shark from the game's press materials when it makes an appearance.
This game is clearly intended for younger audiences, who should find it appealing and easy to learn. Others should skip it, however, as everything in it is unremarkable and relatively mediocre. While it seems like there's a large amount of activities to occupy the player, it mainly amounts to repeating the same so-so mini-games. Somewhat interesting pet maintenance and skill development break up the monotony, and but altogether it never manages to be more than slightly above average.