Gameloft’s latest mobile title is a little different from what we’ve come to expect. Shark Dash (universal) is a simple, compelling physics puzzler that’s made a big splash on the App Store. The game is also available for Android. Don’t be fooled by the cute theme, this one will challenge any level player.
The action takes place in a series of bathtubs that are packed with enough toys to make my young son drool. Premiere amongst them is Sharkee, a tiny toy shark and his crew, Sawy, Hammy, and twin brother Scuby. The clever, cartoonish opening tells the story, such as it is. While the sharks were playing peacefully with Sharkee’s love interest, she is suddenly whisked away by a swarm of angry rubber duckies.
It doesn’t stretch credulity any farther than avian attacks on egg-theiving pigs, and like Angry Birds the object of the game is to fling our revenge-seeking floaty through one of 96 bathtubs, trying to gobble up any of the squeaky yellow fiends hanging around. There are, of course, coins to collect, and in typical puzzler fashion success yields up to three stars. One is for getting all the ducks – a necessity to progress – another is awarded for collecting all the coins, and a third for completing the challenge with a set number of flings or fewer.
Where Shark Dash differs from other similar games is that once Sharkee lands, the next fling is flung from that point. Also the water-physics are pretty cool with obstacles floating or sinking and the water itself offering more resistance than air. Aiming is as simple as pulling back with a finger, and the controls are accurate. Momentum and angle play crucial roles as the puzzles become more complex.
The introductory levels are easy, but soon the tubs, strewn across four wet locales, are filled with blocks made of different materials, tubes, tunnels, rings, soap, sponges, bubbles – an almost Rube Goldberg assortment of gizmos to navigate. On each level there is an obvious solution. Well, obvious isn’t the right word, as most of the puzzles will challenge even the most seasoned flingers, but eventually a “best” path will emerge. But the game is rather open and allows for a lot of freedom. Creative problem solvers are not locked into a single set solve.
There is a shop where different shark avatars (sharkvatars?) are available for in-game currency. Bundles of the coins can be bought via in-app purchase, but if one is the least bit compulsive with decidedly addictive puzzlers, accruing them by just playing is not overly difficult.
For all the puzzling fun, the graphics and level design are what really captivated me. The characters are cute without being saccharine, and despite the limitation of a tub for a setting, each board feels new and challenging in a different way.
There’s really nothing to dislike about Shark Dash. For fans of physics-based puzzle games it has right blend of familiar and novel gameplay to make the end product feel as fresh and clean as a dip in the tub.