Platform(s):PS2, Nintendo Wii
Developer:Toys for Bob
Licensed games based on chlildren's movies and TV shows are usually pretty lackluster. Publishers pump out these games like Hasbro pumps out toys for movies, and that's exactly how the movie studios view the games; as another source of revenue and advertising. And just like the cheesy toys that fall apart after a few plays, the games aren't very well-made either. That's not to say that the developers are unskilled or lack any ability in their craft - far from it. A good example would be WayForward Technologies, who have made such fantastic licensed titles as Barbie's Twelve Dancing Princesses and Spongebob: Creature from the Krusty Krab but also kicked your ass over and over in the fantastic Contra 4.
So that aside, anything negative I have to say in this review in no way reflects the talent of the team at Toys for Bob (ed. note - they made Star Control 2), but instead reflects upon a trend in the industry that focuses on forcing out shovelware on strict deadlines in order to maximize profit. That's exactly what this title is, shovelware. I try to go into games with as blank a slate as possible; without preconceptions, you can actually be surprised and like something you might otherwise pass over simply because of the name on the cover. I actually played, and enjoyed the game based on Open Season to the end credits, even though I've never seen the movie. So when I started playing Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa, I wanted to like it, I wanted to enjoy the time I was to spend with it.
Apparently Madagascar didn't want me to enjoy that time. The game starts you out, thankfully, in a tutorial level wherein you are introduced to the four characters you will be playing and the abilities of each character. When starting out, you get a small cutscene where the Lemur King tells you what to do, and then you are thrust into a mini-game that makes you use the skill you were just told about. And then it does it again. And again. Eventually, you can run around and explore the levels, but that lasts all of fifteen seconds until you are placed into yet another mini-game. This goes on for, ohh, the entire game.
The game looks about how you'd expect a kid's movie game to look. Everything is colorful and resembles the movie pretty well, but the voiceover work is, well, it's subpar. I don't think anybody was expecting the actual actors to give their voice to this game, but the people they pulled off the streets sound like somebody imitating their person, instead of actually sounding like who they're pretenting to be. The Chris Rock impression is both laughable and kinda sad; it's a great impression of a man impersonating Chris Rock, but it's a horrible Chris Rock.
When you actually do get to platform around the levels, it's only marginally competent. The camera tends to hurt you as much as it helps you, and there's nothing particularity challenging about any of the jumps you have to make. The controls are fairly easy to use, which is a good thing considering the target audience. There's never really anything that you have to do in this game that requires any complicated button pressing. The only issue I really had was there are some actions you can take that can be done with either a button press or with a gesture of the Wii remote. Sometimes, the controller would go on the fritz and my character would start hammering his head into the ground because it sensed a slight movement in the remote.
There's just something entirely un-fun about Madagascar 2. I got a few slight chuckles from some of the dialog and launching a squirrel out of a slingshot was funny for a few times, but the game never felt like I was actually getting anywhere. I mean, I was going from mini-game to mini-game, but that's all I felt like I was doing. There was no sense of accomplishment with it. Of course, my sense of accomplishment is going to be way different than the sense of accomplishment of kids this game is actually intended for, I.E. young fans of the movie. Honestly, I don't think I could actually recommend this game to anybody, but if you know a kid who's madly in love with the Madagascar movies, and they have a Wii, they could probably do a lot worse.
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