IGN Review of Flushed Away
I'm a big fan of the theory that cute animal characters are a key ingredient to a successful game. Hey, it's worked in the past, right? Talking animals can even make for a good license game, assuming all the characters in the game don't carry the plague or give you warts or something. Unfortunately, the guys over at ART Co, plague ridden main characters are what they had for their new game, Flushed Away. No quirky Aardman charm can save this game, and much like the main character, the sewer is where this game should end up.
In an upper class neighborhood of Britain, Roddy St James lives a pampered life. He's got a huge cage, and everything he could possibly want. When a sewer rat invades his home, Roddy makes an attempt to drive the intruder out, and ends up getting flushed down the toilet. Now in the sewers, Roddy must try and get back home. Along the way he meets, Rita, another mouse who is trying to steal back a ruby from an evil frog. Bet you didn't realize rodents lived such complicated lives, huh?
Flushed Away, for the most part is a pretty basic platforming title. Players control either Roddy or Rita, depending on the level, and jump over lots of water and bottomless pits. The occasional bad guy enters into the mix to try and impede the hero's progress. It's a pretty simple formula, one that has been tested and works for so many other titles. Flushed Away has managed to botch the formula though, due to a few big mistakes.
First off, most enemies cannot be killed. Players can attack the rats, frogs, slugs, bedbugs, and whatever else gets in their way, but most of them will just be stunned for a few seconds, and then keep attacking. It doesn't make a lot of sense that the smaller enemies can be killed but the larger ones can't. I found it very annoying, especially considering how much back-tracking the game requires, forcing me to fight all the enemies again.
For a game that is almost entirely about jumping over pits, the developers really didn't make it easy. Some of the larger chasms can only be crossed using Rita's grappling hook, which only works some of the time. Plus, these mice, despite having the ability to speak, wear clothes, and handle money, can't seem to grab onto ledges.
The repetitive and tedious gameplay is made worse by the ugly level design. Sewer after sewer greets players. There are substantial differences between the layouts of each section, which is nice, but looking at pipes, bricks, and green water for hours is beyond dull. The sewer world is all connected, and all the levels lead into one another. Players are kind of thrown into it without an explanation of where they're going. I ended up getting lost a number of times because there was nothing to tell me which section of the sewer I was trying to get to. I appreciate a good challenge, but this is a kid's game after all. There should be something to help guide the youngsters in the right direction so that they don't get frustrated and give up.
There are some added elements that keep Flushed Away from being a straight platformer, but none of them save the game. Players complete a few missions while manning the Jammy Dodger, Rita's boat. The boat drives along in profile while players use the gun to fend off enemies. Good luck trying to aim the gun, since the depth perception is nearly impossible. There are upgrades for the ship's weapon, and these become necessary just to be able to play this portion.
In addition to the boat levels, there are three minigames that utilize the Nintendo DS specific features. There's a lock game where players scribble on the touch screen to unlock Roddy and Rita; An extremely out of place soccer game that involves timed blowing; and a top down view boating minigame. All three of the minigames can be selected from the main menu, but it's doubtful that anyone will want to play them.
The game is not entirely without merit. While the levels are ugly and boring, the character models are actually pretty nice. Both characters play uniquely, and have different abilities. There are a few 3D modeled cutscenes too that break up the screenshot-with-textbox theme. Hey, there's even some voicework in there during the gameplay. Unfortunately, players probably won't hear it after they turn their volume down to get rid of the horrible music that infests the title.
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