Feeding Frenzy (Xbox 360) review
"Fish you couldn’t eat moments before suddenly become your victims, sort of like how the sticky ball you rolled around in Katamari Damacy couldn’t pick up a mouse one minute, but later rolled up an entire skyscraper on a single pass. Of course, there are a few key differences."
The idea behind Feeding Frenzy, one of several great games available on the Xbox Live Arcade, is that you’re a small fish and you want to get bigger. You do this by feasting on any others that aren’t as bulky as yourself. As you do so, your meter fills up and then you evolve into a fatter fish capable of eating any of the other fish around you that suddenly became smaller than you after your last growth spurt.
In some ways, the idea is similar to Katamari Damacy. Fish you couldn’t eat moments before suddenly become your victims, sort of like how the sticky ball you rolled around in Katamari Damacy couldn’t pick up a mouse one minute, but later rolled up an entire skyscraper on a single pass. Of course, there are a few key differences.
The first major difference here is that Feeding Frenzy takes place entirely in two dimensions. While they’re not limited quite to one screen, most stages aren’t any larger than three or four. If you try to swim past any invisible borders, you’ll just bounce away from the edge of the screen and possibly into the waiting mouth of a predator. That’s the other change: unlike plenty of other games, there’s constant tension here because any fish larger than yourself is hoping you’ll join the menu.
So, you swim around a tank, eating other fish and avoiding the ones capable of eating you. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, at first it is. Then complications start rolling in. Jellyfish will stun you if you run into them, making you a simple target for passing sharks or lantern fish or whatever else. Mines float in the water, too, and will explode if you crash into them. They have the same effect on your adversaries, though, so maybe you can use them to your advantage.
There are also power-ups, in typical arcade fashion. Some of these double the points you gain for eating fish while others clear the screen of edible treats or just give you points. If you manage to gulp down a golden minnow, you’ll instantly evolve to your next form. A more risky--but often more rewarding--item is the jewel that sometimes appears near the bottom of the area, in the mouth of a clam. It opens and closes at a regular rate, and you can swim inside quickly to claim a prize if you think the risk is worth it.
Bonus stages sometimes add more to the fun, but you’ve essentially heard all there is to Feeding Frenzy. As you work your way through one level after another, the fish grow larger and at several junctures, your starting fish gets more impressive. Overall, though, the game is fairly redundant. There’s only so much gameplay a developer can get out of what is at its heart a simple notion.
Fortunately, there’s one other mode I haven’t mentioned. In addition to the main mode, there’s a time trial diversion that will keep you busy even after you’ve completed the main campaign. Here, you get a set number of seconds to complete stages, as well as an unlimited amount of lives. The problem is that you can only go so far in the mode before your time runs out. If you lose a life, you’ll be able to keep playing but the loss is generally so severe that your game is all but over. If, on the other hand, you play like a champ. . . well, then you’ll get to carry your extra time over to the next stage (think Marble Madness).
Combine the two modes and Feeding Frenzy is a charming game held back only by its inherent simplicity. However, it’s easy to pick up and play for a few minutes, and the achievements are devious enough that you’ll want to keep playing just to unlock them all and show your friends that you’re the superior predator. If this had been released as a $20 or $30 Game Boy Advance game or even as a budget title on the PS2, it would’ve been a bit of a rip-off. Released as a $5.00 download on the Xbox 360, though, it’s just right. Who knew eating fish could be so much fun?
Staff review by Jason Venter (June 24, 2006)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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