Ben Franklin once said the only things that are inevitable in life are death and taxes. Ben lived in a time before movies and video games or else he might have added movie-tie in video games to that list. It seems like any time there’s a big movie release there’s usually some kind of video game that will attempt to
expand the audience for the movie by adding a video game that allowed you play through certain portions the movie. It used to be that you would stay away from the games as they were usually poorly produced shovel ware developed by some fourth rate development shop and rushed to shelves to try and exploit gamers. As the gaming industry has matured the tie-in games have gotten much better and now feature much higher production values and have started to include actual game play as play as part of the package.
With this in mind it was with a little trepidation that I installed Madagascar
on my PC. Sure the movie was a decent flick that I enjoyed a lot more than the sci-fi train wreck that was War of the Worlds but I really didn’t see a lot in the movie that would lend itself to game play. Fortunately the developers took a slightly different tack to the game and instead of playing scenes from the movie the game play is composed of things that happened outside the scope of the movie. It’s easier to think of them more as deleted scenes that you would find on a DVD than playing the movie itself. For example you help Marty escape from the zoo (something you don’t see on screen) and you get to help the penguins take over the ship (which is only hinted at on screen). The game does deviate from the movie in a few places which might confuse younger gamers but it’s not that bad and it’s nice to see the main story of the game fleshed out a bit.
Throughout the game you’ll play as the various main characters in the game: Alex the lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the Hippo, and the gang of militant penguins. Each character has different abilities and methods of attack. For example Alex can perform doubles jump up while Marty can jump great distances. There isn’t a great deal of variation in the abilities as they are either creature specific attacks or different jump modifiers. You start the game will a basic set of moves but you’ll acquire new moves as the game progresses. This is done by collecting character cards that are scattered around some of the levels, once you collect three of them a new ability is unlocked for that character This really isn’t as exciting as it seems as most of the cards are grouped fairly close together. This is something that’s nice for the children gamers but older gamers might feel a bit put off by this (why not just group them into one power-up)
You’ll use these moves to work your way a variety of puzzles and levels. There’s a decent variety of puzzles and challenges in the game. Besides the puzzles and mini-gamers there are also a few arcade games scattered about the game. These are also a bit of a mixed bag but are a nice addition to the game and you don’t have to play them if you don’t want to. The puzzles aren’t going to strain any one but there are a few where the controls get in the way. The Simon like jumping puzzle in the middle of the game is a bit frustrating as you have to start over if you accidentally hit something out of order but for the most part there’s a solid collection of challenges.
Controlling the characters is straight forward. Gamers use the standard WASD FPS scheme to move the characters through out the world while the mouse is used to look around the world. The left mouse button is used to trigger the characters primary attack while the mouse button allows you to interact with other characters and objects in the game world. You can also hit the C button to activate each characters alternate attack and you can jump by pressing the space bar. It’s a pretty simple scheme but it’s complicated by the developers attempt to create a universal scheme with icons. It’s a bit frustrating and you can tell its their way of abstracting the key scheme so they don’t have to change the key setup for each platform the game is ported to.
Graphically Madagascar is a bit hit and miss. The four main characters are fairly well rendered but the rest of the characters in the game are a bit underwhelming. The rest of the characters in the game are basic skins stretched over basic models and seeing the more detailed models next to the lower end ones is a bit jarring. For some of the models (like the Foosa) they seem almost half done like the developers were forced to get the game out before it was done. The game does boost some nice backgrounds though and the different regions in the game are fun to explore.
While the graphics are a bit lacking the sound in the game is fairly solid. While the cast of the movie didn’t provide the voices for the game (although I’m not sure that David Schwimmer has something better to do) the voices in the game are pretty close to the ones in the movie. The voice behind Marty the Zebra is a dead ringer for Chris Rock and I was actually surprised to look at the credits and see that he didn’t do the voice. The rest of the cast sounds close enough to the movie cast that younger gamers aren’t going to notice a difference. I was a bit disappointed that the “Move it, move it” song from the movie didn’t make it into the rave scene but other than that it seems like the rest of the music from the movie made it over.
Like most third person games the camera system isn’t perfect and you’ll spend some time fighting it. The situation is compounded by the fact that the camera is fixed behind the character and you can adjust the tilt and zoom.. The game also carries over the typical console “save point” system which means that you’ll loose progress if you quit before reaching one of the save points, this always bugs me win a PC game and it’s just another one of those corners that developers cut when making a multi-platform game. For the most part they aren’t that far apart but there were a few times where it seemed like they were a bit far apart. This also isn’t a long game and most gamers will be able to finish it in three or four sittings (around six to seven hours total). There’s a bit of replay built in as you may want to go back and try and collect all of the coins that are sprinkled through out the game but that’s only entertaining for so long.
Overall this is something that children will enjoy but that adults will find a bit derivative. I will admit that there were portions of the game that I really did enjoy. There’s a nice sense of humor to the game that adults and children will enjoy and while the game does
While not exactly true to the movie the game is something that kids and pre-teens will probably enjoy but adults might find a bit lacking.