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Jaws (NES) artwork

Jaws (NES) review

"Your average encounter with Jaws himself plays out just like any other confrontation; he’ll swim back and forth as you spew rice at him. He’ll swim in your general direction, but unless your deep-sea diver suddenly loses all of his motor skills, the shark will never catch you."

LJN is notorious for taking successful movie franchises and representing them hilariously in the form of video games. Perhaps you’ll remember the company’s interpretation of the classic horror B movie, Friday the 13th. The NES title did little justice to the indestructible Jason Voorhees; instead of allowing him to reign terror down in a perhaps thought-provoking, puzzle solving adventure, he was teamed up with crows and zombies as he awaited you to find him and throw rocks at his head. That was livable, because Friday the 13th was downright goofy in its gore and cheesiness as it was. But to toy with and make a mockery of Spielberg’s classic JAWS is unforgivable!

The film was a powerful struggle between man and beast as Chief Martin Brody was pressured to relieve Amity Island of a massive burden in the form of a terrorizing great white. A salty sailor and high-strung scientist joined him in trying to eliminate the deadly maneater. Each confrontation that occurred grew more tension-filled than the last until, finally, man emerged victorious in the battle, and the Atlantic had one less killing machine populating it. Until Jaws 2, 3, and The Revenge.

The game is a laughably witless adventure that features a crapload of stingrays and jellyfish, a few miniature sharks, and the main great white himself. The entire epic takes place on the shaky seas, with none of the social tension surrounding Brody and the townspeople that existed in the movie; obviously, this could not be emulated in a video game, but it helped shape the tone of the film. The video game has no shaper; just a lonely rickety boat out on the open seas with a sole passenger.

On your boat, with your overhead point of view, you’ll cruise through a tiny portion of a poorly depicted ocean, around bland, single-colored pieces of land, looking for the monster with nervous angst. These waters appear quiet. Any amount of exploration, though, reveals otherwise; eventually, “YOU’VE HIT SOMETHING!” will clang across the bottom of the screen, and you’ll be yanked into a close-up, side view of the water. A tiny, flailing Lego man jumps out of your tossing ship and kicks furiously, swimming around. You must maneuver him through the water, dodging the merciless wrath of…

Mammoth stingrays and hopping jellyfish. Okay, so you may not find the shark right off the bat; your character says to himself, “why not screw with the careful inner-workings of an underwater ecosystem in the mean time?” And that you’ll do. You'll vaporize these two species by hurling rice pellets out of your eyeballs with reckless abandon. They’ll scream towards at the opponents with an obnoxious, howling “bling!” noise and strike them hard. It’s not exactly your mission, but hey, it kills time, right?

After you’ve murdered enough of these inconceivably dangerous creatures, you’ll return to the overhead view of your boat traveling through the waters freely. Within seconds, you’ll probably again be fighting off a barrage of these beasts. With the number of times they’ll fly at you, stingrays are a bigger death threat than Jaws at this point. As you vanquish them, though, they may drop one of several items. The stars they drop will increase your total points, and should you grab a crab, your swimming speed will increase. You’ll be truly fortunate to collect shells from these beasts, because you can trade these apparently ordinary items for otherwise expensive electronic equipment such as radars, used for tracking Jaws. Even though you can see Jaws visually, without radar, in the overhead, map-like view, it’s just cool to say, “Look! Jaws is on the radar!”

You can also trade in these seashells for boat upgrades at either of the two ports. Your rice pellets of ultimate smarting will become even more potent at destroying the seas wildlife. If you’re lucky, you may even find a mini-submarine just lying around in the ocean that you can use as a shield – it acts as a second hit! Usually the touch of the wily stingray results in remorseless death for the courageous sailor, but with a submarine, it takes the touch of two stingrays to end your efforts and your life.

Your average encounter with Jaws himself plays out just like any other confrontation; he’ll swim back and forth as you spew rice at him. He’ll swim in your general direction, but unless your deep-sea diver suddenly loses all of his motor skills, the shark will never catch you. If you’re in the sub, chuck a few black olives at the monster while you’re at it to reduce his health. If you don’t completely eliminate Jaws in any single altercation, he’ll swim off, only to return after a nice visit to the shark hospital, all health restored.

Imagine how trite and tedious this gets. You sit there, blasting harmless, almost friendly sea animals for about five minutes, just to return to your boat, travel seventeen feet, and repeat. The intermittent encounter with the main enemy is thrown in, just to be more of the same, and, if he escapes you, his health is fully recovered. Should this occur, you must continue your drably collaborated escapade in the same fashion.

Far more pointless and far less noble, JAWS is a despicable translation of the classic film to a boring and repetitive video game experience. Instead of that feeling, that struggle, that terrorizing menace that must be stopped, you get to play as a snooty goon who chucks stuff that looks like common grains and vegetables at random fish. Jaws can absorb surprising vegetable punishment, so destroying him is tedious to say the least; just finding him and playing through the ludicrous “other enemy” confrontations goes above and beyond tedium, into the stratosphere of lulling, drooling, coma-inducing gaming.


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Staff review by K T (June 10, 2005)

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