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Gaming On­-The-Go: Creative Director Chris Dawson Talks Shark Week's Impact On ‘Hungry Shark Evolution’

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Gaming On-The-Go is a weekly series that explores the mobile gaming industry, as well as uncovering the current trends, with hands-on guides for the latest smartphone and tablet games.

While there is no shortage of summer TV shows to watch, the deadly fascinating beasts of the deep blue take a bite out of my attention for an entire week every year. Discovery Channel just aired its annual Shark Week, and I cannot deny being a huge fan of the educational yet terrifying program.

And what better way to indulge in some bloody good TV, than passing commercial breaks with a new mobile game?

This week, I have been obsessed with the mobile game Hungry Shark Evolution, developed and published by Ubisoft's Future Games of London.

And just in time for Shark Week, Ubisoft announced its third annual partnership with Discovery Channel.

"We think our partnership with Discovery Channel is very rewarding for players, giving them even more of what they want—sharks," Chris Dawson, Creative Director at Future Games of London told Tech Times. "28 years in the making, Shark Week is an incredible feast for the eyes if you love all things sharks. We encourage players to expand on their shark knowledge by watching Shark Week, but we also offer in-game content relating to the TV programs to make the connection even stronger."

The 3.3.0 app update includes fireworks for 4th of July, shark sand sculptures, a nine-piece Shark of Liberty that unlocks a special accessory, and the ability to support the Oceana and Fin Free charities through in-app purchases.

"As a games company, we feel that we are in a privileged position to raise awareness about sharks and ocean preservation in general. I guess you can call it a modern approach to raising awareness," Dawson said.

"Marketing partnerships like Hungry Shark Evolution allow us to reach our Shark Week fans in unique ways," said Discovery Channel's SVP of Marketing Lara Richardson in a press release. "These custom game placements extend our campaign in a way that's fun and unexpected for our viewers."

First released in 2012, Hungry Shark Evolution has been downloaded over 125 million times, and was the winner of the TIGA Best Game Award in 2013. In this 3D aquatic adventure game, the player takes on the role of a hungry shark that must keep eating to stay alive.

"The film Jaws was probably the main inspiration for the creation of Hungry Shark. We knew that Sharks were very popular...featured heavily in movies, TV and were rarely out of the media," Dawson said. "And although there were lots of shark games on the market, we felt that we could bring an entirely fun, new concept with the Hungry Shark franchise."

To play, use your left thumb or forefinger to touch and drag anywhere on the screen to move the shark in that direction, and your right to boost the shark to move and attack faster. Swim to catch the various marine life, which includes schools of fish, crabs, seagulls other sharks, penguins–and even people–to prevent death by starvation.

Some of the creatures at the bottom of the sea are dangerous—such as jellyfish, divers with spears, mini subs and bigger sharks—so you should always be cautious. Each consumed snack gives you coins (some species more than others). Collect coins to evolve the shark, and when the shark is fully evolved, you can buy the next bigger and badder shark. Of course my eye has been on the great white—but I soon found that upgrading may take more time then I'd expected.

Still, with my interest in sharks and the easy-to-play and enjoyable gameplay, it's safe to say I'm hooked on Hungry Shark Evolution. I find myself opening the app constantly during my free time. That means during my weekly commute, while "cleaning" the house, and even as I catch the end of Sharks of the Shadowland, Shark Clans and other Shark Week programming (as I still try to get my hands on the tiger shark).

And it's not just because it's a great way to kill time for an actively running mind. With dramatic yet bubbly music, impressive 3D graphics, and the lingering desire to upgrade to something better, I can't help but dive in each chance I get.

I soon began developing strategies on how to get to the next shark. I first evolved the reef shark to its full capacity to then buy the mako. But instead of playing that shark, I returned to the reef shark to get enough coins to upgrade for the mako. However, this strategy is slightly flawed, since the gamer needs to completely level-up the newer shark before being able to purchase the next one—so eventually, you will have to dedicate enough time to that shark, too.

After finally getting the hammerhead, upgrading to the tiger shark will take 15,000 coins—which is some serious shark bucks. But there are game hacks that can help. Eat the marine life that is golden and complete the missions to earn a decent number of coins.

"Here's a general tactic that I like to adopt," Dawson said. "If it's a high-score or coins that you're after, I would focus on eating entire shoals of fish to gain big points and keep the multiplier going. Once gold rush triggers, refocus on larger prey, as they are worth more coins. Exploration is also important, as we're always hiding treasure items and random weird things around each of the maps."

Players can also watch free video trailers daily to get an extra 100 coins and one free gem. Tap on the green gem icon at the top right corner and click on "Free" to watch. Liking the game on Facebook will additionally give you five free gems. Dawson said that the game's Facebook page is constantly updated with content such as guides to beat a difficult section, as well as tips of the week. You will also want to make sure you get the daily reward treasure check in the left tunnel when playing the reef shark, to get up to 400 coins and five gems.

The only downside to this game is there is no online feature where gamers could compete against each other to break up some of the monotonous gameplay — which would be great since players have already spent 35,000 years playing Hungry Shark Evolution.

The map could be bigger, since it does seem like you keep covering the same areas after a while. Some users have also complained about the megalodon shark not being all it's hyped up to be, having a short health life as well as a short golden streak — which could be a huge letdown by the time I reach that stage.

But what the game lacks in these areas, it makes up in its realistic graphics, which let gamers feel as if they were scuba diving themselves.

"Hungry Shark Evolution was an ambitious game for us," said Dawson. "It was the first time we had developed a game in 3D with highly detailed graphics. This initially caused us numerous technical challenges to get the game running positively on mobile."

But the team pulled it off. The marine life looks and moves realistically, and those (like me) who love the gore won't be disappointed with some of the bigger shark attacks — which even include the high-pitched screams of the innocent swimmer. The sharks can also breach impressively, and this happens in slo-mo, so the gamer can savior every second of it.

I recommend this mobile game for fans of endless runner games who may be looking for a bit more excitement without feeling like they need to master a skill. It's also ideal for those who just want a simply enjoyable game to play in their free time without having to complete a level, to be picked up later for further evolving the sharks to enhance gameplay. Once you get a taste of this game, you probably won't be able to put it down.

Hungry Shark Evolution is available to download for free with in-app purchases for both iOS and Android.

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