The Game: Would you rather be a small fish in a small pond, or a big fish in a small pond? If you’re going to survive in this game, you’d better think big. Sharks and larger fish swim through the water, and if they’re bigger than you, you have to avoid them or be eaten. You, on the other hand, can feed on smaller items which are below you on the food chain – and the more you eat, the more you grow, and this means you can eat more of the fish on the screen at any given time. But growth has its price: the bigger you get, the slower your fish becomes and the harder it is to get away from the shark. You can try to nibble the shark to death by biting his tail, but beware…he can bite back! (Mattel Electronics, 1982)
Memories: One of the Intellivision’s more unique titles, Shark! Shark! is literally a cool little game about the food chain – and it’s an addictively fun one too, perfect for the whole family. The first time I set eyes on the game, I had no manual – and it took me the loss of just one of my fishy lives to suss out how it’s played. Of course, every so often one still gets a little too brave and drives the poor little fish right into some blatantly obvious hazard because it looked like it might be small enough to eat…
The really sad thing is, at least something I’ve noticed in playing Shark! Shark! myself, is that this might be the forerunner of the Tamagotchi (virtual pet) games. The longer I spent getting my fish out of harm’s way and watching him grow, the more painful it was when I eventually drove him face-first into his doom. But it’s okay – he’s a video fish. He works for scale.
Thanks, folks, I’ll be here all week. And chances are, at the end of that week, I’ll still be playing Shark! Shark! And so will you. At first dismissed by Mattel Electronics’ own marketing department as too much of a lightweight game to merit a hefty print run, Shark! Shark! has rightly turned out to be one of the company’s most enduring titles, surviving to this day in PC, console and stand-alone TV game translations.