I just now got finished watching JAWS on Blu-ray and as I sat, pondering on all of the HD gory glory that I had just witnessed, a thought crossed my mind: why don’t we have a good JAWS game yet? Now, I say “good” JAWS game because we have, in fact, been given a few JAWS games over the years, but none of them have been any good.
In 1987 we were given our first video game treatment of the eponymous shark in LJN’s NES game simply titled JAWS. This game has two strikes against it: for one, it’s based mainly on the fourth movie, and if anyone has seen the JAWS movies, then you can agree with me that the fourth film is by FAR the worst of the four, and that’s saying something because the third one really stinks. The other strike this game has against it is that it is just no dang good. I mean, really, this game sucks. Sucks bad. Sucks real bad. I remember playing it as a child and loving it, but I also used to think that Carmen San Diego was a real criminal. The point is that people grow up and this horrible game did NOT age well. Not at all.
In 1989 we got another JAWS game: JAWS the Computer Game! Releasing on things like the Commodore 64, Amiga and others, players were tasked with finding the pieces of Chief Brody’s…um…. shark weapon? Yeah, I know, it sounds really stupid. I’ve never played this one but it just looks awful. Simply awful.
JAWS took a substantial hiatus after 1989 and didn’t reappear in his own game again until 2006 when Majesco released JAWS Unleashed for the Xbox and PS2. I was so excited for this one as I thought it would finally be the game JAWS fans like myself had been waiting for. This game had all the potential in the world; you got to play as the shark in an open world environment and wreak all the havoc you wanted. How could it go wrong? Well, apparently, in all ways possible. For one thing, it controls like crap and the camera is defaulted to make your vision of the events as irritating as possible. Also, the promise of an open world is not exactly a promise…. it’s more like a lie. You have free reign in the sections of the ocean you are placed in, but you cannot leave those areas until you’re done with the objective. At least the objectives are fun. Oh, wait … no they’re not. They’re dumb. On the plus side however, this game has the whole ‘so bad it’s good’ thing going for it. There is plenty of stupid fun to be had here, like biting off a scientist’s arm to use his keycard on a door and breaking into Seaworld to kill Shamu. This game is silly entertainment but it doesn’t do enough right to justify playing for the laughs. Too bad though; I wanted to like it.
Majesco tried again in October 2011 with a new JAWS title called JAWS: Ultimate Predator. This title released on the Wii, with a handheld version developed for the 3DS. Ultimate Predator played much like JAWS Unleashed in that you control the shark and complete random objectives. It was just as silly and stupid as its predecessor. At one point in the game you battle a giant underwater mech-style diving suit and you defeat it by giving it a vicious series of head butts and tail swipes. Does it sound stupid? Well, it is. Again, it had the potential to be stupid fun but the gameplay itself just didn’t resonate with the public. Certainly not for the two members of the public that bought the game.
So, after that rough trip down memory lane where are we left? Much as we were before Nintendo ever released its first title: in a world without a good JAWS game. The question is…why? At this point in my life I find it nigh-unacceptable that someone hasn’t figured this out yet. With all the creativity that is oozing about the video game development community I can’t believe that no one has figured out how to make this work. The franchise itself, specifically the first film, is highly respected and as loved now as much as it ever was but unfortunately, we video game fans have no JAWS title to be proud of.
Now, here’s the thing: I’m not stupid. I understand that a good JAWS title is no easy feat. It’s not as if there’s much to do as a shark besides swim and eat. A couple of the JAWS games tried to add in some objectives but they ended up being rather silly. On the other hand, playing as the human against the shark is not an easy sell either. I mean, it’s not as if a shark can plan world domination and employ the help of other sharks to keep the hero at bay. I mean, yes, that game sounds AWESOME, but it wouldn’t be a JAWS game. So, yeah, I understand that a true JAWS game would be difficult to do, but I still want one.
It probably won’t happen. It’s a mere pipe dream of mine to play a true-blue JAWS game that captures the spirit of the film and employs good gameplay. I have no notion that I will ever sit down and enjoy this game but I think it could happen if the right developer ever got ahold of the license. Batman games were always awful until Rocksteady gave it a try. Spaghetti Western games were never playable until Rockstar gave us Red Dead Redemption. Transformer games were always cheap shovel-ware until High Moon Studios took a crack at it. My point is that no franchise is hopeless; merely dormant until the right studio picks it up. Will it ever happen? Well, probably not. But a boy can dream, can’t he?