IGN Review of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
When any high profile film hits the masses, you can usually count on a licensed game to rear its head and capitalize on the advertising and hype that surrounds its silver screen counterpart. Thus, when Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa turns up on game store shelves, you shouldn't be surprised. Unfortunately, Escape 2 Africa (henceforth known as "Escape") is the incredibly bland, poorly executed experience that most knowledgeable gamers would expect from a licensed affair; it's a game that's only purpose is to cash in on the current "craze" as opposed to offering any real innovation.
Escape is, for the most part, a standard platformer that strings a series of mini-games together with the end goal of getting the main characters (including Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria) in a plane and back to their home in New York. The game interprets certain plot points of the film but deviates in order to set up the gameplay, which is to be expected.
In case I haven't made it clear already, Escape is the kind of game that isn't broken by any stretch of the imagination but is so uninspired and dissatisfying that I simply can't glean any entertainment from it. The rough platforming elements serve as the game's hub, where you progress the "plot" and access all the different mini-games that spring up throughout. Most of the initial platforming elements are played out as you take control of Alex the Lion, though after only an hour or two you'll soon find yourself at the Watering Hole which also acts as a hub of sorts to different game environments and re-playable mini-games.
This brings me to one of Escape 2 Africa's most obvious problems: its organizational structure. Although I could understand what to do and where to go next, the game does an absolutely horrendous job of setting up a recognizable pace and making your next task obvious. Things just feel very loosely bound together and eventually the whole affair just turns into a repetitious exercise in monkey collecting. I have nothing against open-world environments, but you need some form of guiding structure to keep the player grounded and keep the game's narrative moving forward; Escape just doesn't have that dynamic properly in place. During my time with the game, I had no motivation to continue because there was no reward to speak of besides continuing on the same boring road.
Had the platforming and mini-games been entertaining, the messy structure could have been forgivable, but that's not the case with Escape 2 Africa. The platforming segments control poorly and the camera control is awkward at best. The game's level design is of the cookie cutter variety and has no substance to it whatsoever. The mini-games are equally uninteresting. I'm not sure why it was believed that musical chairs and hot potato make enthralling videogame experiences, but most of the games just don't feel right -- both in terms of controls and raw gameplay. Even one of the more exciting mini-games, where you take control of a jeep as the brigade of penguins and try to ram a bunch of other vehicles off the road, controls terribly and can be frustrating (you'll end up skidding all over the road). Some of these distractions are slightly more entertaining with multiple people, but only at first glance. There's only so much you can get out of a bad rhythm mini-game, even if you're playing with a buddy.
I can't forget to mention that the animation of Escape is also embarrassing. I can absolutely see what the developers were attempting to do in trying to emulate the very precise and exuberant actions of the characters seen in the movie, but the execution is all wrong. Most cutscenes involve a character making a sudden motion and then -- for an extended period of time -- keeping perfectly still. As in, frozen. The end result just doesn't work.
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