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Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for November, 2008

Jaws

Posted by Tracy Poff on November 29, 2008

Jaws is an action game, published in 1987 by LJN Toys, Ltd. and developed by Westone Co., Ltd.

The object of the game, as anyone who’s seen the movies could guess, is to hunt down and kill Jaws, the shark. When the game opens, we are presented a top down view of our boat.

If the boat hits something, the view changes from top-down to side-on, and we are given the opportunity to shoot jellyfish, stingrays, and small sharks in order to obtain points, crabs (which speed up the diver) or shells.

These encounters can occur in either shallow water (shown above), which appears when you hit something near the coastline, or deeper water. The shallow water is much more difficult, since you have less time and room to dodge the enemies, so I’d recommend avoiding coastlines when possible.

After finishing the underwater screen, you may get the opportunity to play a bonus game, which is rather like the bonus game in Galaga–jellyfish swim around in patterns and you try to drop bombs on them from the plane flying overhead. Unlike Galaga, however, you don’t have full control of the plane. It flies back and forth automatically, and you can only choose whether it moves quickly or slowly. As a result, it’s difficult to hit the jellyfish if they appear at the wrong time. Every third jellyfish you hit gives you a shell at the end of the bonus game.

Shells aren’t just another version of points, though–they serve as money (why shells would be worth anything at a port, I don’t know; just go with it). There are two ports in Jaws. You begin at one of them. Once you’ve collected a few shells, you can travel to the other, and upon arriving there you’ll trade some shells for a receiver, which lets you know when Jaws is close. After this, you alternate between the two ports, trading increasing numbers of shells for increased attack power.

This attack power is only useful against Jaws, though; the ordinary enemies take the same number of hits no matter what your attack power is. There is a powerup you can get to help you with them, though: the submarine. After thirty thousand points, the submarine appears somewhere on the map, and you can collect it. Once you’ve done so, instead of simply having a diver on the underwater screen, you’ll be in a submarine, which has bombs and torpedoes instead of mere harpoons.

Whether you get the submarine or not, though, you’ll eventually fight Jaws. If you run into him with your boat, you’ll first get to lob some bombs at him from your boat, before being dropped into the water. Either way, you’ll have to shoot him until his power is depleted. The more you’ve raised your power, the faster this will be. I’ve read that at power level one it will take over a thousand shots to empty Jaws’ power gauge, so I wouldn’t recommend attempting this before your power is level three or four. I’d also recommend using a turbo button for firing–the first time I actually beat Jaws, I was using an NES Advantage, but emulators have this function as well.

One tip for this fight: if you’re at the very top of the water, Jaws can’t hit you (though the small sharks can), so you can use this to dodge him. However, if you move down just slightly from the top (very slightly–probably only a pixel), Jaws won’t be able to hit you, but your harpoons will still hit him. If you get in this spot, you can just float on top of Jaws and auto-fire your harpoons at him, which is much faster than keeping your distance (since the number of shots on the screen at a time is limited), and much safer than trying to chase him closely.

However you wear him down, once you’ve done it, you’ll be shown a first person view for the final confrontation. You have to use a strobe when Jaws is directly in front of your boat, and then ram him.

It is very difficult to get the timing for this just right–if jaws is too close or too far away, it won’t work. Plus, when you use the strobe, Jaws rotates, so you also have to ram him at the right time–too soon or too late and it won’t work either. If you fail, you’ll be sent back to the overworld map and have to hit Jaws and wear him down all over again. You begin with three strobes, but once you’ve maxed your power you can trade shells for more at the ports, if you’re so inclined.

Once you successfully ram him, you’re treated to the sight of Jaws’ corpse sinking to the ocean floor, followed by an ending screen in which a plane flies off into the sunset.

That’s it! I beat the game in a little under half an hour, but it shouldn’t be too hard to beat in under fifteen minutes if you put your mind to it.

AI: 3/10
The enemies just swim straight at you. It works, but it doesn’t require any skill to plan a strategy.
Gameplay: 5/10
The controls work well enough, and there’s nothing wrong with the basic idea, though it does get repetitive. The random encounters happen annoyingly often, too, when you’re just trying to upgrade your power.
Graphics: 7/10
The graphics look pretty good, actually. They’re not perfect, but you can easily tell what’s what and they don’t get annoying to look at while playing.
Sound: 5/10
The sound isn’t annoying, but it’s not interesting or particularly memorable either.
Story: 0/5
There’s no story at all presented in the game, and even the premise is pretty weak. I’m only giving this half weight, though, since the story isn’t very important in an action game like this, and its contemporaries weren’t much better.
Personal Slant: 6/10
I played this game a fair bit when I was younger, so I’m a little nostalgic about it, but that doesn’t make the game good.
Total: 4.7/10
Jaws isn’t really worth playing. It’s not precisely a bad game, but there are much better action games, and this one doesn’t really stand out in any way.
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