The game contains a variety of genres ranging from adventure to dance.
Shark Tale provides examples of the following tropes:
- Accidental Misnaming: Oscar accidentally calls Mrs. Sanchez Mrs. Sandwich at one point.
- Adaptational Badass: While Oscar's an utter wimp and a Fake Ultimate Hero in the movie, his combat prowess and survival abilities are boosted in the game to the point where he not only survives every encounter he has with a shark by outrunning/outwitting it, but he actually manages to beat a giant eel, Lenny and even a hammerhead shark in hand-to-hand fights.
- Adaptational Alternate Ending: Oscar doesn't convince Lenny and Don Lino to reunite near the end in the PC version, but rather threatens Lino into retiring and leaving his mafia business to Lenny. He also retains his fame despite still confessing to his deception, and so holds a dance party in his penthouse instead of becoming manager of the Whale Wash.
- Adaptation Deviation: The PC version changes several plot points - in particular, Angie never learns Oscar lied about being a sharkslayer until he confesses near the end, Lenny and Don Lino don't reconcile on-screen (Lenny doesn't even appear in the ending, as him and Lino are stuck in the Whale Trap at different times), and Oscar threatens Lino into retiring and leaving Lenny in charge of the mafia. And despite confessing to his deception, Oscar is still held as a celebrity and retains his high-rise penthouse.
- Adapted Out: Lola is completely absent from the PC version despite being one of the reasons Oscar is motivated to become rich.
- Canon Foreigner: Phillippe de Caviar only appears in the video game.
- Dance Party Ending: The PC version's credits feature Oscar throwing a dance party in his high-rise apartment.
- Dash Attack: During the free-roaming segments, Oscar can perform a rushing attack in the held direction, which can be charged up for additional speed and distance. It's useful for fighting enemies, breaking objects, attacking NPCs and just getting around quickly.
- Eat the Camera: If a barracuda catches Oscar in the PC version of the game's stealth sections, a cutscene plays with a literal example from Oscar's first person point of view. The barracuda leans its head back and lunges it at the screen with mouth open to eat him.
- Escort Mission: Oscar has to sneak Lenny though the nighttime streets at one point. Unique for the trope, the escorted character can't be hurt in any way, and the danger instead comes from the paparazzi trying to expose Oscar and the police who'll arrest him on sight.
- Forced Tutorial: The player gets these thanks to Crazy Joe.
- Gameplay and Story Integration: The pause menu newspaper headlines accurately reflect Oscar's health and level he's in at any given point. Doing well with very little damage taken? The headline will compliment Oscar. Doing poorly? It'll mock him. There are also a variety of headlines depending on how well he does at the dancing levels, how far ahead he is in the racing levels as well as everything else in-between.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: Due to it coming much later in the game, Oscar and Lenny's staged fight is much harder than Oscar's fights against the eel and hammerhead shark (both of whom were genuinely trying to kill him).
- Gameplay Roulette: The gameplay changes constantly, ranging from dancing to fighting to action-adventure and everything in between.
- Genre-Busting: Contains dance, action-adventure and a variety of gameplay genres.
- Heal Thyself: Successfully landing a taunt during the fighting stages allows Oscar to regenerate a portion of his health.
- It's a Wonderful Failure: Several levels have unique cutscenes that play upon failure. The lightest tend to come with the dancing levels and usually involve Oscar's awful dancing driving everyone away, while the darkest usually come when sharks are involved; Oscar's just a second away from being Eaten Alive before the screen cuts away. In the PC version, those shark encounters actually do have Oscar eaten if he loses, though the actual action is offscreen, and the commentary that takes place afterwards sometimes includes Oscar talking straight from the stomach of the shark that catches him. Being caught by a barracuda in the stealth sections on the PC version shows Oscar being eaten, as a first person shot where the barracuda eats at the screen, and Oscar's eyes light up in a dark stomach afterwards while he remarks unhappily.
- Mockumentary: The game is presented as a documentary about Oscar and his rise to stardom, told via interviews from Angie, Lenny, Sykes, Lola and Don Lino regarding their experiences with Oscar.
- Mouth Cam: Occurs during the second-to-last stage - letting Don Lino get too close results in the player getting a view of his teeth from inside his mouth.
- My Grandma Can Do Better Than You: One of Oscar's insults in the fighting stages is as follows:My landlady hits harder than you!
- Nightmare Sequence: Oscar is chased by a shark and in the opening level, though it turns out to be a dream.
- Practical Taunt: Oscar can heal himself during the fighting levels by taunting.
- Reformulated Game:
- The console versions are 2D level-based sidescrollers with a Gameplay Roulette involving racing, rhythm games, chases and fighting. Unlike in the PC version, fame and money are not required to progress through the story and are exclusively used for bonus unlockables.
- The PC version is a 3D open world game that retains the basic racing, rhythm and chase gameplay styles but handles them completely differently, with fame (acquired by completing missions) required to progress through the story and money used to purchase furniture for Oscar's apartments.
- Shout-Out: The one-on-one fight levels reference Punch-Out!!'s gameplay: Oscar is shown from a third-person perspective, has left and right punches along with an uppercut all activated with different buttons and stronger variations of each, has to land a lot of punches to take the enemy down and has powerful special moves he can use by filling up a meter.
- Stealth-Based Mission:
- Oscar has to sneak though the whale wash, the shark mob's base and the nighttime streets (with Lenny in the latter case) without being detected at different points throughout the game.
- The PC version does this slightly differently. Oscar goes through a warehouse where Angie's purse was stolen to, the wastelands after his encounter with Frankie, the streets at night while setting up his advertisements, as well as Lino's ocean liner and the Whale Wash. All five places have crabs holding flashlights who summon barracudas when they detect Oscar using their flashlights, said barracudas also patrolling in circles or sleeping in wait for being summoned so that they go after Oscar if they see him or get close enough. He can evade them, but he can also throw sea urchins to distract the crabs and prevent the barracudas from properly pursuing him. The last two also add piranhas which Oscar can ward off with a cloud of repellant.
- Trash Talk: Oscar loves spouting off taunts every time he dodges an attack during the fight stages. He can also taunt freely during certain enemy attacks.(dodging) You even trying here?
(dodging) Phew, you need to do something about that fish breath!
(dodging) My landlady hits harder than you!
(dodging) Oooh, so close!
(dodging) What, that the best you got?
(dodging) Yeah, you keep trying, big guy.
(taunting) You couldn't hit the broad side of a barnacle.
(taunting) Whoop, there it is!
(taunting) Fish, you couldn't hang if you were a poster!
- The Unfought: Frankie and Don Lino don't get boss fights, despite the former being foreshadowed in Oscar's Nightmare Sequence and the latter being the Big Bad of the game. Both are relegated to scripted chase sequences in which Oscar has no means of attacking them. In the PC version, all of the sharks that Oscar encounters are given chase sequences, meaning that his staged fight with Lenny is now depicted as one of these, along with the literal Loan Shark encountered early in the game.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Oscar can charge at NPC fish and attack them. Hit them hard enough and they'll go flying right off the screen.