Monday, February 28, 2011

Feeding Frenzy Review

Chomp Chomp Chomp

Feeding Frenzy, developed by PopCap games, is a casual styled 2D arcade game that has the player controlling a variety of marine life forms who are intent on eating as many other marine life forms as possible. The more you eat, the more you grow, and the more you grow, the bigger they variety of fish and other marine life you can eat. You start out as a small angel fish named Andy, and by the time you reach level 40 in the game's Normal mode, you end up playing as a very large Orca whale, who preys on sharks, as well as other whales. Essentially, this game can be summed up as a simplistic, lighthearted, marine centric circle of life simulator.

As previously mentioned, the Normal mode takes place over the course of 40 levels, which are split up amongst several Chapters. Each chapter has the player controlling a new character. Each level within each chapter plays the same way: you start of small, and must grow larger in size by eating a specific amount of prey. Your progress in terms of growth and consumption is tracked by the so called growth meter, which is located on the top left of the screen. Once you reach a certain point on the growth meter, you hit the next stage of development. The larger you grow, the more varied the amount and size of prey you can consume.

Along with eating prey that is smaller than yourself, you must work to actively avoid the larger predators, who are trying to do to you what you are doing to the smaller marine life: make dinner out of you. Along with avoiding predators, you must also avoid environmental dangers (which increase in number and severity the farther you get in the game) such as electric jellyfish, land mines, and ele[img]ctric eels.

To aid you in your quest, you have a few tricks at your disposal. First, there are the two abilities which you attain once you reach a certain chapter in the game, one of which is offensively useful, and the other which is to be used defensively. The offensive manoeuvre at your disposal is the sucking ability. This enables you to inhale a nearby school of fish, which will nab you the so called hefty school bonus. This increases your score, and adds significantly to your growth meter.

The defensive trick at your disposal is the speed dash, which is very useful for escaping from the clutches of a predator. This move, in actuality, while more useful defensively, can actually be utilized in an offensive manner, by closing the gap between yourself and a predator, although it's harder to use in this way, as the dash is quite stiff, and always reaches a set distance, which can not be mitigated by the player via controller inputs. In fact, this illuminates one of the small issues with the game. The animation and controls.

There are also powerups that can be acquired, which have differing effects. One kind will increase your swim speed, and another will temporarily freeze all other fish in place. A third provides you with a shield, and the fourth powerup type automatically sends your fish dashing around the screen, eating every single available onscreen prey during this time.

The animation and control in this game are a bit problematic. They controls feel a bit loose, as well as stiff. Stiff also describes some of the animations as well. It's hard to exactly pinpoint it, but basically, movements feel a bit too loose, as though you're not fully in control of your fish at all times. You'll often go swim past your intended target, and then overcorrect and miss again. Moments like these, while certainly not game breaking, are irritating. The stiff animations charge applies specifically to the dash. The dash, as previously stated, cannot be mitigated via control inputs. In other words, it cannot be cancelled or shortened. You cannot attenuate it in any way. Once you dash, you've committed.

The growth process is based on how many points a player has accumulated. These points, tracked by the growth meter, are attained by eating fish; however, eating fish is not the only way to earn points, and, consequently, grow in size. There are alternate methods of achieving growth. For instance, there is a frenzy meter that can be filled by eating a large amount of fish in a short amount of time. Fill this meter, and each fish eaten beyond that point doubles in point value (for a set time). This state is known as a Feeding Frenzy. Continuing to consume fish at an accelerated rate during a Feeding Frenzy can result in a Double Frenzy, during which even more points are earned. These frenzy states come to an end once the rate of consumption slows down.

Eating an entire school of fish before they escape (best done with the suction technique) also offers up point bonuses in the form of the heavy school bonus. There are also golden minnows that show up from time to time, and these carry huge point values, so it is wise to keep an eye out for them and consume them on sight. Starfish and frenzy coins hidden inside of oyster pearls can be collected for some added growth as well.

Graphically, the game is pleasing in the sense that it is quite colourful, and there are some large character models on display. It's a big, bright, clean look, but nothing technically astonishing.

The sound design is excellent. The music is entirely appropriate, and the sound effects themselves really stand out. Listening to the over the top crunching and munching sounds is genuinely quite a treat. The whole thing comes across as rather charming.

Feeding Frenzy is not a particularly difficult game. The 40 stages do ramp up in difficulty as the player progresses, but they never reach a significant level of challenge. Later levels do feature an increased number of predators, as well as larger numbers of environmental hazards, such as immobilizing jellyfish, poison fish that reverse your controls and explosive depth charges, although these hazards are counterbalanced by the slightly overpowered powerups available to the player.

The hardest part of each level is always the beginning, as, in addition to avoiding the aforementioned hazards, you also have to stay away from larger fish. Once you achieve a certain level of growth, the tide is turned too far into your favour. There may be a few tight spots at intermittent intervals, but nothing more than a few retries is ever warranted, and there is no way to increase the difficulty.

In terms of extras, the offering here is rather thin. There is a Time Attack mode available from the start of the game. This mode has the player run, or, rather, swim, through the stages in a race against the clock. You can pick up time extension icons during the levels to add to your time, although this is largely unnecessary, as, similarly to the Normal mode, the Time Attack mode is not all that difficult.

Other than the Time Attack mode, there are leaderboards and achievements to occupy you, although the degree to which these do so depend largely on the gamer. There are no extras beyond the Time Attack mode, and unfortunately, there is no multiplayer mode available.

Feeding Frenzy is a cute, colourful, fun little game, but ultimately, it's pretty shallow and does not offer much in the way of challenge or extras. It's something that will keep you busy for a couple of hours, perhaps a few, but this is not a game that you will come back to time and time again. Normal mode can be beaten in under two hours, so it is up to you to decide if there is enough here to keep you playing long enough to warrant the 800 MS points ($10) it will take to own this game.

Overall Score: 6.5/10

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