♫ Baby shark do do do ♫
♫ Baby shark do do do ♫
I’m sorry. Please don’t leave the site and never come back. I had to get it out of my system. I mean, you start the game as a baby shark. You understand. Anyway…
I have not been as excited for a game as I was Maneater in a long time. A game where you play as a shark and eat people. Yes please, give it to me. I’m gonna do shark crimes! I’ve learned over the years I’ve been doing accessibility work that the more excited I am for a game, the more likely I am to be disappointed by its accessibility barriers.
And folks, I was disappointed.
Let’s talk about these subtitles (if you can find them). The game begins like a documentary that I would really like to be real. Your shark killing nemesis in this game is Scaly Pete. After the opening tutorial in which you play a mama shark to learn the ropes, Scaly Pete kills mama shark and rips baby shark, you, from her belly. And so begins your life as a baby shark orphan and your baby shark life of killing to grow so you can one day kill Scaly Pete.
The subtitles for the cinematics are bad. Why even bother level of bad. I appreciate them going to the trouble of adding a background but what good does it do if you need binoculars to read them? And there are no subtitle options either, just on or off.
Maneater was made in UE4. There’s an asset developers can buy (for cheap!) from the Marketplace that will teach you best practices for subtitles and allow them to give players the power of customization. For God’s sake, take advantage of it!
Anyway, back to the review.
The in-game subtitles are still FAR too small but ever so slightly better than the cinematic subtitles. As you’re going around doing your shark crimes, the narrator (who is unfortunately not David Attenborough) will narrate your shark crimes on occasion, but players who rely on subtitles probably still won’t get the story because again, who can read this?
The real barrier in Maneater, and the biggest disappointment for me, isn;t the subtitles though, it’s the controls.
Even though there are three control scheme options, in every one of them, your main attack- biting- remains mapped to the right trigger. It’s a problem throughout the game but particularly so in the early game when your attack moves are limited because you’re a baby shark. You will be mashing the hell out of that right trigger because every enemy requires multiple bites to die and after just a few minutes, my index finger was too pained to continue playing.
Also problematic are the complex controls for thrashing. As the above image states, performing this move is necessary if you ever want to kill prey that is of your same size or larger, and I have yet to do it successfully even once with my not great dexterity.
There are a couple things Maneater does really well though. One of these things is the auto-targeting of your nearest prey. While I would appreciate a toggle that would lock the camera on the prey until it’s dead instead of having to adjust slightly for prey that will attack you back (it seems to stay locked on to nonaggressive prey) it does help make combat slightly more manageable for players with dexterity issues and joint pain.
Also very helpful is the how the game highlights and pings, for lack of a better word, all nearby prey. Docile prey has a blue outline, dangerous prey is in red. The pings also show you what resource that particular type of enemy will give you upon killing it. Enemies that are near you but out of your line of sight have a very handy directional indicator that changes from yellow to red depending on their distance and awareness of you.
A feature I really appreciate are the waypoints that players can set. These appear both as beacons (shown above) for when you’re “knifing” on the surface, and show up on your top compass bar when you’re underwater.
All in all, Maneater, while a wildly fun and unique take on an RPG, is just mediocre when it comes to accessibility, both for Deaf/hoh players and those that live with dexterity issues and joint pain.
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