With the summer movie season well under way, the glut of tie-in video games has already begun. We've already seen tie-in games for Ironman, The Hulk, and Kung Fu Panda and with Pixar's Wall-E opening this Friday you just knew the kid-friendly tie-in game wouldn't be far behind. Wall-E was one of three titles that I didn't get to check out at the THQ event a few months ago but luckily the folks at THQ were able to send me a near final build of the game
I'm not sure if there's any irony to having a movie-tie for a movie that espouses the evils of rampant consumerism or not but I do know that after playing the first four levels or so of Wall-E is your standard movie tie-in game. It's a bit above average as compared to other tie-in games but it's not going to be in the running for any editors awards at the end of the year. The game takes place in the year 2800 and humanity has left the Earth after turning it into one giant garbage heap. You take the control of Wall-E, the last functioning trash compacting robot left behind to clean up the mess so that eventually humanity can return to it's roots. Through out the game you will also get to control of the iPod inspired
robot EVE and even command the robots in tandem during some phases of the game.
The game play is your standard platforming action as you work through linear levels collecting keys, Wallops (the gold coins of the game), and a bevy of secret collectible items (most of which are plugs for other Pixar movies). Wall-E has two configurations (he's a mini-transformer). A treaded mode where he can pick up items up and throw them, and a cube mode where he can "roll" around the environment Samus style. Completing the puzzles in the game requires you to throw various trash cubes to activate triggers or to collect keys to open doors. You do have three types of trash cubes to work with. There's the standard trash cube which you use to hit switches, a heavy trash cube which you use to weigh down certain things, and the energy cube which is used to power certain areas and which can distract or destory other roobots in the game. Throwing the cubes is fairly easy as the game provides a solid lock-on system so you know where you're throwing the cubes and you can carry up to three cubes at a time which is critical for solving some of the game's puzzles.
The hovering EVE is a sharp contrast to the land-locked Wall-E is as she floats around and shoots stuff. She can also pick up Wall-E and ferry him short distances when the two are working together. Her gameplay (at least in the early stages) is a combination of open world exploration and timed racing missions. It's not bad the controls are a bit wonky as you have to steer EVE as well as control the speed. It's a bit tricky to get the hang of, especially since you now have to worry about the extra dimension.
One of the first things I noticed about the game was the long loading times. This is something that should be improved a bit in the final build thought. There is a benefit as the game loads entire level into memory and you don't see another load screen until you progress to the next level. This includes situations in where Wall-E or EVE dies as the game puts you back to the last save point where you can try again. This is huge benefit as it takes some of the frustration out of dying as you don't have to face a load screen while you curse the jumping puzzles in the game.
The graphics are average with some decent backgrounds which is a little disappointing considering the source material. The graphics do get kicked up a notch once you leave the planet but still fall short of the tie-in standard set by the Kung Fu Panda game. Audio is likewise solid as the musical score for the game does a good job of setting the mood while the in game audio is decent but a bit pedestrian.
Controls are decent. As I mentioned early EVE's controls are a little twitchy and take some getting used to. Controlling the tandem together also takes some time as you have to deal with EVE's gun controls overriding Wall-E's throwing controls (you have to use the face buttons to throw items instead of using the triggers). It's a decent solution but it took a few tries to figure it out. It also took some time to figure out that you can get EVE to carry Wall-E higher by pressing and holding hte Y button instead of just tapping it to jump. This should save you some of the teeth nashing I went through trying to figure out why the tandem jumps always came up short.
I don't think this game is going to rate well with the hard core gamers but then again that's not the audience the game is trying to hit. I think younger gamers will enjoy the game but will get frustrated with some of the jumping puzzles but will enjoy playing their favorite characters. There's not a lot of new ground broken in the game but it does a servicable job of allowing you to play the movie.
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