When a new film hits the box office, there is a likelihood of a video game accompanying it. If the film is bright, cheerful, and geared toward children, the video game tie-in is practically an inevitability. Such is the case with Madagascar, the latest movie rip off from Activision. Is it good? Is it bad? Well, it really depends on who is playing it.
On the surface, this game is a basic, cookie-cutter platformer, but on the inside...well, it’s a basic, cookie-cutter platformer. You’re not going to find much depth here, and the game pretty much follows the formula of a platform-jumper. There’s plenty of hopping about, spread across the handful of colorful levels you’re given, divided amongst the four playable characters. That’s right, the motley crew of zoo animals from the film are fully playable, as are the conspiracy-bent penguins, and this is where the game shines. Each character has unique abilities, such as roaring or jumping higher, and these abilities go hand in hand with the level design. Each character will end up doing the same thing over and over again, just in a different setting.
The stages themselves are nothing to write home about. They go from a zoo and city to the jungles of Madagascar Island, but the platforming stays pretty much the same throughout.
The signature humor of the Dreamworks film is recreated more or less, so a few laughs can be had while playing. For example, you can pop helium balloons to make your voice go higher, or steal hats and sunglasses from tourists with a fishing pole. At one point pigeons drop bird poop on you, and you have to scare them away to avoid getting pasted. For the most part though, the humor is shallow and intended for the ten and under crowd.
In fact, younger players will get a kick out of this game. I interviewed a couple of kids and they loved reliving moments from the film. On that front, the title loosely follows the plot of the movie, but without much footage lifted from the film. The developers make up for this by throwing in a nice amount of extras for filler. The most fun I had was with these mini games; the tank maze was a decent distraction. Still, even with these extras, the game is quite easy and painfully short. I’d say four to six hours, tops.
If there’s a weak point to this one, it’s the graphics. The characters are just barely recreated in 128 bit form; the poly count is disappointing and the textures are downright hideous. There’s some nice detail, like hoses that spray water when you kick them, but the overall presentation is lackluster and bland. I wasn’t expecting a bump-mapped beauty with specular highlighting, but even for a license game these visuals are sub-par.
The sound is a higher note, no pun intended. The music isn’t really catchy, but it does its job and never gets annoying. The voices are well done and a little funny, and include some professional talent, such as Phil Lamarr. None of the characters feel stiff or forced, but this game is based on a cartoon flick.
In the end, the kids will eat this one up. They’ll come home from seeing the movie and play this game to death. They’ll enjoy it too, as the game is well put together and it isn’t really broken in any respect. Solid control, a minimum of bugs, and an easy interface make it a pick-up-and-play deal. The younger crowd will also appreciate the repetitive nature of the gameplay. Older kids and adults probably won’t give this game a second glance (or a first glance for that matter), due to the subject matter and the sub-par graphics. Unless you flipped over the movie and absolutely have to play this game, think about buying something else. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just rather average.
An average platform game that younger gamers will appreciate more than adult gamers.