Let me be perfectly clear right from the get-go, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is not a game that was designed with me in mind. I've never seen the original movie, nor do I plan on rushing out to the theater and paying to see the movie this game is based on. It's also worth mentioning that I didn't play the first game, so I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I turned on my system and started to play Activision's adaptation of this popular franchise. What I found was that Madagascar 2 was a fun and inoffensive game. It's certainly not the kind of thing hardcore gamers are going to be swooning over, but if you're shopping for a young child then you could do a lot worse than this.
Thankfully you don't need to know much about the original film going in, the beginning of the game sets up the whole story. Apparently the series follows a group of four different New York City zoo animals (a zebra, giraffe, hippo and lion) as they break free and set off on an adventure to Madagascar. Apparently things didn't go well for them, so they (along with a smart-mouthed lemur and some penguins) board a shabbily thrown together airplane and embark back to the States. Unfortunately something goes wrong along the way and the airplane (along with its animal inhabitants) crash land in an African wildlife preserve.
Madagascar 2's story told through a series of mini-games, each of which involve you controlling one of the lovable characters. In the early stages you are tasked with rebuilding the airplane, which involves Alex the lion (not voiced by Ben Stiller) collecting the items needed to build the plane, Marty the zebra (not voiced by Chris Rock) kicking the luggage into the airplane, Melman the giraffe (not voiced by David Schwimmer) hammering the bolts in with is head and Gloria the hippo (not voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith) swimming around. You also get to control Julien (the smarth-mouthed lemur) and his sidekick, Mort (not voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen or Andy Richter, respectively).
Eventually you'll make it to the African wildlife preserve where things suddenly take a less linear path. The game will give you a large watering hole environment that you can explore, giving you a series of tasks to complete and objects to collect. Before long you'll be switching back and forth trying to beat the game's various levels and hire enough monkeys to re-rebuild the crashed airplane. You'll also run into a number of funny characters (not voiced by any of the movie's cast) and play some interestingly (albeit shallow) mini-games. Do all this and you'll be treated to a song and dance sequence that has all the animals of Africa dancing along.
Okay, so it's not the most thrilling action game. If you're an adult looking to buy this for yourself, then you're probably going to be better served with Fallout 3, Gears of War 2 or Fable II. However, the game's mini-games are simple and fun enough to keep younger players entertained for a good five to ten hours. The good news is that there's a nice variety of mini-games to play through, including everything from bowling to a variation on hot potato to miniature golf to some fun races to diving to dancing. There's also some fun platforming action that is fairly easy to wrap your head around. Seeing as the game is aimed at little ones, you'll find that most of the game is extremely easy to beat. You probably won't die too many times, unless you find yourself accidentally falling into the water when you miss a jump. Thankfully there's no penalty for dying, so a seasoned gamer can easily get through this game in no more than five hours.
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