Sewer Shark


Review by Dan Mahlendorf

Digital Pictures


Graphics: 8

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 5

Overall: 7

The mention of Full Motion Video (FMV) games can send either chills of terror or warm waves of joy up the spine of a gamer.  While one of the first FMV titles for the Sega CD was not the prettiest of games, Sewer Shark was a fairly solid on-rails shooter.  When the 3DO game system was released, a few of these FMV gems were ported over to the then powerful, dare I say "uber", game system.  Sewer Shark was one of them. 

For those of you who have not heard of Sewer Shark, let me enlighten you.  The game takes place on a world where you must take care of the sewer system of the great Solar City, a place everyone wants to go to.  Warm beaches, sun on your face, a comfortable breeze from the sea...a place you can't get to until your earn your way there.  The sewer systems are infested with vermin that's about the size of coffee tables.  To keep the sewers clean, small two man ships are sent in to blow the critters up.  However the sewers are one big maze with treacherous turns and many a pilot into a stain on the sewer walls.  This is all explained to you in the video introduction when you start the game.  You, a pilot, are assigned to the veteran (and possibly supremely lucky) "back seat", call sign Ghost.  Ghost explains, in his own colorful way, the laws of the land and your ultimate goal: to score one million points (or "pounds of tube-steak" as he puts it) which will guarantee both of you a one way trip to the great Solar City.  Catfish, a float spherical droid with several anxiety issues, is your scout who gives you coordinates to the open tunnels of the sewer.  The game is all FMV, save for the cockpit, your crosshairs, and some monsters which are computer sprites.  You basically move the crosshairs and blast whatever monster you see as you speed through the tubes.  The name of the game is to get as many points as possible because you will be rated at various points of the game on how well you did by Commissioner Stenchler.  Not score enough and its game over.  Get enough points, your call sign changes (to more favorable names other than your starting name, which is "Dogmeat") and play continues.  Follow Catfish's directions (using clock faces for direction: 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, etc.) or you'll usually crash your ship, also ending the game.  Every once in a while you'll fly towards a recharge station, which (if you select the right path indicated by green lights) will refuel your energy, which is used up when you fire, get damaged, etc.  Pretty straightforward game. 

"What's that ugly thing sitting in the pilot seat?"-Catfish

The visual difference between the Sega CD and 3DO versions is night and day.  The Sega CD version had a small viewing area for the movies and the video was grainy and lacked color.  The 3DO version gives us practically a full screen view, sharper and more colorful video, and a more stylish cockpit.  There were also some stuttering issues in the Sega CD version when the tunnel sequence reloops that was fixed in the 3DO version. 

The sound effects, however, did not transfer so well.  The guns and monster sounds are totally different and in my opinion, worse than the Sega CD version.  The rattegators made a satisfying shriek when you shot them.  The scorpion-like creatures would make an odd shrill electrical sound when they attacked your vessel and the moles...oh the moles would make a sound like metal being torn as they speed toward you on a collision course.  These sounds gave the Sega CD version something extra that put you at the edge of your seat.  Unfortunately, the 3DO version sounds very flat.  I have no idea why the sounds were changed and would have been better if they were left alone.

"Relax.  Pretend it's a game.  Maybe it'll even be fun."-Ghost

The game itself plays exactly the same as the Sega CD version but with some niggling problems.  The crosshairs are not as sensitive at shooting the FMV creatures as they are on the Sega CD.  I had my guns trained on a rattegator and should have pumped him full of lead, but the game didn't register a hit.  This can get very frustrating, especially in later stages.  Another problem, something that is not totally Digital Pictures' fault, is control.  The standard 3DO pad is horrible with response time in this game due to their problems with diagonal movement.  A third party controller or the improved 3DO pads help with this but the game itself is rather touchy with crosshair movement.  Those issues aside, the game is still very playable but doesn't top its obsolete brother.  One bonus the game does give you is the ability to replay at the level you were at when you died, something the Sega CD version didn't do until you were a good ways into the game.

Overall, if you enjoy FMV games and rail shooters, Sewer Shark is a decent title to have in your collection.  Its filled with humor and can be a pretty wild ride toward the middle and end.  If you have a Sega CD and Sewer Shark already- that's a tough call.  Game play wise the Sega CD version is tighter and the sound effects are more satisfying, so it's really your call if you want to see the game in near full-screen glory with better visuals.  But, as FMV games fall into a "love/hate" category, if you don't like FMV games before Sewer Shark for 3DO is not going to change your mind.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:31 PM