Shark-bytes: A brief overview of JAWS in the gaming industry

PIXELATED TERROR RUNS DEEP!

PIXELATED TERROR RUNS DEEP!

It’s well known that JAWS was a benchmark film: It made director Steven Spielberg a household name, started the Summer blockbuster trend, and ushered in an entire generation of aspiring filmmakers. (e.g. Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, M. Night Shyamalan, Bryan Singer, et al.) It also spawned three sequels (which got increasingly worse), inspired dozens of knock-offs, and led to the creation of numerous games over a variety of platforms and consoles.

Many of you reading this, will at the very least recall two of the games I’m going to touch upon, but I assure you, several of the others will probably surprise you.

SHARK JAWS
Year of Release: 1975
Developer: Atari
Platform(s): Arcade Cabinet
Purchase it: N/A

This arcade game was an unlicensed tie-in with Spielberg’s JAWS. The object of the game is to guide your diver on the screen and capture as many fish as you can before the Great White eats him. This was actually a pretty popular game back in the day, and reportedly sold over 2,000 units. Surprisingly, it would seem that Universal didn’t attempt to file suit against Atari, who took great pains to avoid a lawsuit should one arise.

Scope out a refurbished “Shark JAWS” arcade cabinet in action in the following video:

 

As an added bonus, here’s footage of a working KILLER SHARK arcade game, as seen in the movie JAWS:

 

SHARK ATTACK 3D (a.k.a. JAWS 3D)
Year of Release: 1982
Developer: Takara Tomy Co. Ltd.
Platform(s): Tomytronic 3D
Purchase it: eBay

The Tomytronic 3D was a short-lived portable handheld gaming device that came out in 1983. The user would hold it up to their eyes like a pair of binoculars, and utilize a few buttons on the sides of the device to play the games. (Essentially it was the lovechild of a Tiger Electronics handheld and a View-Master.) The Tomytronic simulated “3D graphics” by utilizing two LCD panels that received light through a window on top of the gaming apparatus. Though everything moved with the grace of a digital watch, the Tomytronic 3D was actually pretty advanced for its time.

Only seven versions of the Tomytronic were released, each with a different game. These include Skyfighters, Thundering Turbo, Sky Attack, Planet Zeon, Jungle Fighter, Sherman Attack, and most importantly, Shark Attack. While not originally intended as a JAWS-themed game, it was later re-branded by Tomy Electronics (but only in Japan) as JAWS 3D, to tie in with Universal’s latest entry into their killer shark franchise. The object of the game is to kill or dodge the oncoming sharks before they can devour your diver. It’s super simplistic, but was apparently quite popular during its initial release.

You can (kind of) see some of the gameplay in this following Youtube video. Just skip to the twenty-three minute mark:

 

JAWS
Year of Release: 1987
Developer: LJN
Platform(s): NES
Purchase it: Amazon.com / ebay

Ah yes, THIS is the one that you all probably remember. Developed by LJN games (creator of some of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s most frustrating and despised titles), this odd RPG/sidescroller sort of follows the plot of the much-maligned JAWS: THE REVENGE. (Which was released just four months before the release of this video game.)

The game opens up to a map of the Bahamas. You must navigate your boat between two ports, all the while evading a giant fin that occasionally pops up on the screen and chases you. Often, at random, you’ll “HIT SOMETHING” (kind of like the classic “Final Fantasy” games) and have to dive into the depths below to kill every living thing in the ocean with your speargun.

You can’t leave this game screen until you wipe out all the stingrays, who happen to drop conch shells. Said shells are your currency in the game – Collect them to receive powerups at each port in order to make it easier to defeat JAWS.

The object of the game is to jack up your power level (getting to level eight is adequate), so that you can seek out and injure JAWS enough to have a showdown on the high seas. As is the case with the final JAWS film, you must hit the shark with a strobe, which causes it to leap out of the water. If you time it right, you then must jab and impale the killer shark with the front of your boat. Doing so gives you a disappointing “congrats” screen.

As far as LJN games go, this is actually one of the more playable (and easier) ones. However, don’t let that fool you because this is still one of the most anger-inducing classic NES titles that you will ever play. I started a “Let’s Play” series for this game a while back, but never got around to finishing it. You can check out part one of my misadventures with LJN’s JAWS below.

 

JAWS: THE COMPUTER GAME
Year of Release: 1989
Developer: Intelligent Design
Platform(s): Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum
Purchase it: ebay

Until I began doing research for this list, I had no idea this JAWS video game had even existed. It has shockingly good graphics, but seems like a total pain in the ass to play. On a map of Amity Island, you must select a portion of beach to explore and seek out the dreaded Great White. (The best way to do this is wait for it to eat someone, because the game will announce the shark’s location.)

Once you arrive at the location you desire, have your diver man the submersible. Once in the water, you must seek out FOUR parts to a special weapon that will utterly defeat the shark, but you must dodge and shoot your way through various screens of unfriendly fish to find them. While this sounds easy, I should note that you have to do all of this on a limited time frame. Your diver in the mini-sub is slowly running out of air, and will die of asphyxiation if you do not hurry.

Also, to save “bathers,” you must shut down beaches to keep the shark from eating them all. (I’m assuming that if you run out of bathers, you lose the game?) However, shutting down the beaches hurts Amity’s businesses, and angers the mayor. I’m not positive, but perhaps if you annoy him enough, he opens the beaches back up so that more people can get eaten?

Below is a video someone made of the gameplay. The music and graphics are actually pretty cool, but man does this game look like a headache to play.

 

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS: THEME PARKS ADVENTURE
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Kemko
Platform(s): Nintendo Gamecube
Purchase it: Amazon.com / ebay

This Gamecube exclusive title comes complete with a Universal Studios movie quiz, and a bunch of mini-games based off the theme park’s cinematic attractions, such as BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE RIDE, JURASSIC PARK RIVER ADVENTURE, E.T. ADVENTURE, BACKDRAFT, WATERWORLD, THE WILD, WILD, WEST STUNT SHOW, and of course, JAWS.

The JAWS portion of the game has you riding around in Quint’s boat (the ORCA) with the Great White in hot pursuit. The goal is to keep the shark from damaging your boat, which you accomplish by lobbing barrels, and explosives, into its face.

Here’s a fun video (with commentary) that shows you how to survive this mini-game:

 

JAWS UNLEASHED
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Apaloosa Interactive
Platform(s): PS2, X-BOX, PC
Purchase it: Amazon.com / ebay

Though it received mixed reviews upon its initial release, THIS is the JAWS game that we all wanted when we were growing up. In JAWS UNLEASHED, you play as the Great White Shark! A shark hunter is after you, as is a marine biologist (who wants to capture you for study), so you’ve got to keep on swimming and chomping your way to freedom.

I played this game years ago, and although the gameplay isn’t all it is cracked up to be (i.e. it has lousy controls), there is something very satisfying about it. However, the novelty of being a hungry Great White wears off rather quickly, and I gave up on the game after only a few hours. Regardless of its shortcomings, it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to a good JAWS game.

Check out some gameplay footage of JAWS UNLEASHED won’t you?

 

JAWS
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Aristocrat Games
Platform(s): Slot machines
Purchase it: N/A

While JAWS may seem like your simple five-reel twenty-payout slot machine, the history of the game is as turbulent as the waters of Amity Island. Before Aristocrat Games bagged the license rights from Universal Pictures, there was a long and drawn out battle between Aristocrat and Reno-based game developer IGT.

Unfortunately, the studio behind Gaming Realms’ Castle Jackpot lost, and Aristocrat got the rights to this acclaimed game. Currently, the studio has produced three slots based on the franchise – Jaws: Bounty Hunter, Jaws: Night Hunter, and Jaws: Midnight Bounty.

Personally I’m not a huge gambler, but I’d give any one of these a whirl, if only because its an officially licensed JAWS game. Check out this promo video for the JAWS: BOUNTY HUNTER slot machine:

 

JAWS: ULTIMATE PREDATOR
Year of Release: 2011
Developer: TecTonic Studios, Microprose
Platform(s): Wii, Nintendo 3DS
Purchase it: Amazon.com / ebay

As of my writing this, JAWS: ULTIMATE PREDATOR is that last JAWS game to be made. Released by Majesco, this game takes place 35 years after the events of the 1975 film. You get to swim around the world and protect your watery domain from the evil humans, and defend yourself from bosses, like a killer whale, a sea serpent, etc.

I haven’t played this yet, but from what I’ve seen and heard, it is not a very well-made game. (The graphics are a big step back.) It appears that the controls are hard to master, plus it has a problematic camera system, so sometimes you have no idea what is happening. Still, it’s cheap and my Wii is collecting dust, so maybe I’ll give it a whirl some day. (Or maybe I’ll pick up a Nintendo 3DS and try the game, because the 3DS version is apparently a big improvement over the Wii version.)

Check out some gameplay footage with commentators before you make the ultimate decision to buy it:

Well, that seems to be all of the JAWS video games that exist Vault Dwellers! Surprisingly, I don’t think a pinball machine based on the film was ever constructed, though there was a board game created back in the 70s that is now highly collectible!

Thanks for reading fellow JAWS fans! If you know of any other games that I may have missed, or just want to wax nostalgic (or bitterly complain) about some of the older JAWS games, feel free to do so in the comments section below!