Ready Player Jaws

To paraphrase the Indy tag line, if adventure has a name...it must be Indiana Jones, if 80s cinema has a name...it must be Steven Spielberg.

If he wasn't directing the latest summer blockbuster - Raiders, E.T., Temple of Doom, Last Crusade - then he was certainly Executive Producing it –Back to the Future, Young Sherlock Holmes, The Goonies.

He was seen as not just being able to tap into the minds of the young but was young at heart himself, underpinned by a constant love of videogames. It’s not hard to find images of Spielberg next to the latest games console or arcade machine. In fact you could say that giant leaps in video games and films were evolving at the same pace.

Self-confessed games nut Spielberg has melded those two worlds in his adaptation of Ready Player One, which features a huge hit of iconic pop and movie culture references in an escapist virtual reality world. Those that have seen the trailers will have glimpsed the likes of a DeLorean, The Iron Giant and so on, but no Bruce.

Bruce and the Jaws franchise though were no stranger to the world of 1980s videogames and beyond…

In fact, as well as creating the summer blockbuster you could argue that Jaws showed that the world of film and videogames could co-exist, just look of the use of the 1972 Sega game Killer Shark – complete with its strobe effect and high pitched noise as it is shot, a pre-cursor of sorts to the end of the film – which made for a beautiful visual pun.

 

We all know that 1975 was the summer of the shark, it was something that emerging videogame developers jumped on, the beaches of Amity got away lightly with one ‘rogue’ attacker, the Amity arcades would have had three!

 

There was Maneater, a US billiards game called Shark and then there was Atari’s Shark Jaws, the shark was more of a very small size font whisper with JAWS the more dominant to cash in on all things Jaws despite not being a licenced product.

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Gameplay consisted of the player racing against the clock as a diver attempting to spear fish and avoid being eaten by Jaws…I mean Shark Jaws. The game even appeared in the 1978 Jaws spoof, Piranha, which was directed by future Gremlins and Innerspace helmer, Joe Dante, both of which were Executive Produced by Spielberg.

 

Jaws (1987)

Michael Caine may not have seen Jaws the Revenge but I wonder if he’s played the Nintendo video game that was released around the same period, the box even steals Bruce off the front of the poster – albeit with a better tagline than the fourth creature feature. This one announces that ‘this time there is no escape’.

Gameplay sounds about as exciting as Ellen building sandcastles with Thea, Wikipedia states that In the game, the player pilots a boat across the sea, randomly encountering groups of hostile sea creatures. When the boat hits something in the overhead map, the perspective changes to a side-view. The player's boat releases a diver who battles various undersea threats such as jellyfish, rays, and smaller sharks.

Occasionally, Jaws will appear on the map in the form of its familiar dorsal fin breaking the water's surface. If players collide with Jaws' dorsal fin, they can momentarily control their boat in the side-view encounter in an attempt to attack Jaws with depth charges. Jaws will always collide with the boat and release the diver into the water. Jaws will also appear after a brief moment if the player snags something in the overhead map with Jaws nearby.

We get the Jaws theme on the title menu but not throughout the game. Like Jaws the Revenge you also have to attempt to skewer Bruce with the front of your boat, and yes it does look better than it did in the film, And you get to fly off with Hoagie into the sun set.

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No Ellen Brody though, I don’t think computers were powerful enough to recreate her terrible hair from the film.

Jaws: The Computer Game (1989)

Bruce dived back into the pixelated water off Amity for the Commodore Amiga, the same game was just called Jaws on the Commodore 64. We do get a nice map of Amity and in pixel form at least – Brody, Quint and Hooper. Although they are that pixelated it is a bit like when someone sees Jesus in a slice of toast or tea stain.


Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure (2001)

I loved the Gamecube but this has to be the most vacuous game in history, a game based on Universal Studios theme park sounds exciting, right? A game featuring Jaws, E.T., Back to the Future, Backdraft and Jurassic Park sounds like it has huge potential, right? Horrifically WRONG. This should be consigned to the very same landfill that the E.T. Atari game found itself languishing in.

You’d feel conned if you’d rented it out, never mind if you bought it. The Jaws element is probably one of the better sections – that honestly isn’t saying much – where we find ourselves aboard the Orca and trying to stop the shark eating the boat and getting a barrel or two into him, by er throwing them at him. Realism, my ass!

There is a distinct lack of adventure and the only recurrent theme is that it is really shit.
 

Jaws Unleashed (2005)

Sharks may not have changed for millions of years but thankfully the Jaws games have evolved in a lot less time and Jaws Unleashed, from the same developers as Ecco the Dolphin brought Bruce crashing and crunching back on our screens via the PS2 and Xbox 360.

We are actually in Amity, 30 years after the events of the original film – not just some random ocean as in other games – and also feature Mike Brody, giving us some nice Jaws continuity. And despite some shocking camera moves and it being a tad buggy, Jaws Unleashed is a helluva lot of fun. Why? You. Are. The. Shark.

It’s a brilliant trailer and got me hook, line and sinker.

Jaws Unleashed - PlayStation 2
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Jaws Unleashed - Xbox
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I’d love to see a true free roaming Jaws game though that is on a similar level to Alien: Evolution and of course featuring Brody, Quint and Hooper and even the ‘holiday roast’ guys. It’s the Jaws game us Jaws fans deserve.

 


Jaws Ultimate Predator (2011)

Pardon the pun, but there obviously continues to be an appetite for Jaws videogames, this one for the Wii and Nintendo DS is very similar to Jaws Unleashed and again see you in control of the shark. It’s a parade of Jaws vs ship, giant alligator, sperm whale? Add some terrible intercut scenes where no expense was spent on animating them and you have a rotting corpse of a game. A shame, Indiana Jones worked well on the Wii and so did several other games such as Day of Disaster.

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That ultimate Jaws game is still out there, just waiting to be teased to the surface…

By Dean Newman 

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