GameShark 4.0 (for the PlayStation)
If you’ve read even one or two of my reviews for “older” games, you know that I’m a big fan of cheat devices, ahem, game enhancers, to get me through many of these impossible titles. As video games evolved, so did these enhancers. No longer a bulky unit stepping in between cartridge and console, the GameShark might be more properly categorized as software as the package includes a single CD. Providing a wealth of codes already built in, it also uses a standard PlayStation memory card to store even more codes that can be entered by the user.
In addition to the CD-version in my possession (Version 4.0), there was also an earlier version that fit onto one of the ports of the back of the unit. What the differences are between how these 2 iterations function is unknown to me, though generally newer editions of items like this improve upon older ones and I’m perfectly happy with my disc. It would seem that several previous versions exist with entirely different interfaces though I cannot speak to the quality of any others.
What is a GameShark?
GameSharks represent the industry’s evolution from the Game Genie. Instead of the cartridge – game intermediary, third-party developers had to get a little more clever when CD-based gaming became the norm. The GameShark itself is a CD that “loads” these “codes” into the PlayStation before a game starts. With a memory card with some spare space available, the user can even add codes to the already large database without having to type them in each time.
What Does it Do?
First, one must insert the GameShark disc like any other game. The system will boot up as normal and load the GameShark’s interface. It’s a nice big menu with TONS of games listed. One selects the game they’re about to play, looks at all the available codes, and chooses which ones they want activated for the game. Unlike Game Genies of the past, the user rarely has to look at the actual codes as everything is nicely translated into words. When adding codes, the user can type in the name of the game and the name of the effect. It takes a little time to enter all this information, but it’s very useful and much better than having to type in codes each and every time a game is played. Completely eliminated is the need to look up codes before playing a game. Once saved on the memory card, they’ll always be available for easy selection.
Once you’ve selected the codes you want to begin with, you’ll have the option to start the game either with or without codes turned on. I’m not sure why anyone would go to the trouble to insert the GameShark disc if they didn’t plan to use the codes, but the option is there nonetheless. When one is ready to start, the system will prompt the user to remove the GameShark disc, insert the game, and press X. I was a little cautious of switching discs like this, but don’t worry, everything works swimmingly. After the game loads, the GameShark’s effects only become obvious in areas pertaining to the codes and the game otherwise functions as normal.
Just how hard can you cheat with the GameShark? Different games have different codes, but gamers have been exploring and testing these gadgets for years and coming up with new ones. Even if the code you’re looking for isn’t listed, it just might be floating around on the web somewhere. Common cheats include infinite lives, infinite energy, infinite ammo, and in case you only want to cheat a little bit, many times codes are available allowing the character to start the game with a particular item or two, or begin on a level other than the first.
Sometimes in order to generate an effect multiple codes (or “values” as the GameShark calls them) were needed, just like in the old days where there Game Genie required 2 codes for one modification. Using up 2 or more slots for one effect was a real dampener, but gone are these problems. Since there is no finite entry screen on the GameShark, there’s essentially no limit to the number of codes that can be used. Rather than entering each code every time, these codes are stored permanently and are either activated or deactivated. Having the freedom to turn on as many cheat combinations as possible is a huge leap forward from the 3 to 5 lines allowed on 3rd and 4th generation systems. There are claims that too many active codes can cause the game to crash. I don’t doubt the possibility, but I doubt that most people will turn on too many given codes at a time. One impressive aspect over earlier game enhancers is that the occurrence of unintended side effects is almost non-existent. With PlayStation games containing so much more detail and data than earlier cartridge-based titles, it become easier to pinpoint exactly what elements are being modified while leaving other parts of gameplay untouched.
During my assessment of the Game Genie for the NES, I mentioned that by the time of the PlayStation many games had in-game cheats thereby eliminating some of the need for cheat devices. However, after seeing how much the GameShark has to offer, I can safely say that built-in cheat codes are no match for what can be done with this purpose-built cheat device.
Problems with the GameShark
These minor issues are nothing to get bent out of shape about or keep you from buying a GameShark if you want one. It’s got an incredibly intuitive interface that anyone who can read can use and it could be easier to get up and running, cheats and all. But like all things, a few improvements couldn’t hurt.
- Incompatible with later PlayStations. One of the great features of Sony’s PlayStation line is its backwards compatibility: the PS2 plays all PS1 games and beefy models of the PS3 play all games from both. Unfortunately, being a third-party device the GameShark 4.0 does not work with either. The PS3 won’t load the disc correctly (even with memory card contents moved) and though the PS2 seems to handle it sufficiently, once it comes time to change discs everything grinds to a halt. Even if you got rid of your PS1 long ago, the good news is that these units are available everywhere and pretty cheap as well.
- The database and software is stored on the CD. Instead of having a sturdy cartridge that does all the hard work, we have another CD. Being the most important part of the equation, it’s important to take really good care of it, something that’s not always easy to find when it comes to CD-based media. One well-placed scratch could essentially ruin it all.
- A memory card is required to add new codes. Technically you can add new codes without the use of a memory cad, but they won’t be saved after the console is powered off. It doesn’t take up that much space, but the company does recommend setting aside a spare memory card to make the most of additions. Not as much of a problem when memory cards were all over the shelves, though people may not have an extra one lying around these days. The good news is that they can be found pretty cheap almost anywhere that sells old gaming equipment.
- No option to turn codes “on” or “off.” Once the game has begun with codes, there’s no way to turn them off. Depending on what sorts of codes you’ve activated this may not be a problem, but I have ran across many games on other consoles who’s codes get in the way of finishing a level or something similar.
- No way to change codes without powering off. Some cheat devices allow the player to enter the code menu with a simple reset, useful if you only needed to use one particular code for a level or something similar. In this case, you must power off the PlayStation, take out the game, reinsert the GameShark disc, and go through the entire process again. Again, whether or not this a problem for you depends largely on the types of codes you’re using.
It wasn’t until recently that I began tinkering with these more advanced game enhancers, but the venture has paid off. With an incredible degree of control over the PlayStation’s finest games, almost any title becomes enjoyable. I wish I’d had one of these back when I was introduced to the console as a kid. Not having to worry about pesky things such as dying makes gaming all the more fun for me and this is a fantastic piece of equipment to achieve just that. Plenty these are still available new in box, which is really the only to go when it comes to something this sensitive, even if it is a few extra bucks.
Reviewed by The Cubist
Share This Post