Most videogame adaptations of blockbuster movies tend to suck. It's just an accepted fact in this industry. So when publisher Activision announced a game based on the animated flick Madagascar
, there was much reason to fear. Game journalists the world over cowered under their desks in frightful anticipation of bad cameras, poor level design and insipid gameplay. And hey, who could really blame them. Thankfully, a good many of these doubts were unfounded. Developer Toys for Bob delivers a solid platformer with its release of Madagascar
It's certainly geared toward a younger audience. Most game veterans won't have a problem plowing through the entire game in six hours, for example. But younger kids (and even diehard platform fans craving a fix) will find a lot to like here. To start, Madagascar does a good job of recreating the humor of its big-screen sibling. Much of the dialogue is pretty entertaining, as is the voice acting. It's decidedly corny, of course, so whether you like it or not is a matter of taste. But it's undeniably better than what's in most kid-centric videogames.
Madagascar also features clips from the movie, which only helps tie the two products together. Interestingly enough, while the game follows the plot of the movie closely, most of the in-game cut scenes use the game engine and not real clips. Somewhat unfortunate, really. The game adaptation of The Incredibles used scenes from the movie to great effect. Alas - moving on. Fans of the movie know everything there is to know about the plight of Marty and his furry friends, but here's a recap for those who don't.
Madagascar chronicles the adventures of four animals from the Central Park Zoo in New York. There's Marty, the Zebra, who grows tired of life behind bars and conspires to bust free. Then there's Gloria, the girl's girl hippo, Melman, the hypochondriac giraffe and Alex, the headstrong Lion. Once Marty breaks out of his pen and leaves the Zoo, he decides to rush through downtown New York to catch a train at Grand Central Station. The point being to reach "the wild." Of course, this "wild" is in fact Connecticut, but Marty doesn't know that.
After Marty's loyal friends discover he's missing (on his birthday no less,) they decide to bust out themselves to find him. As previously stated, the game mirrors the plot of the movie, but there's obviously more to the game. For starters, Marty's escape from the Zoo is a relatively quick affair in the movie but a lengthy sequence in the game. It serves to note before the main game actually begins, Madagascar forces you through a quick tutorial where you assume the roles of each character and learn basic skills. You can read earlier coverage right over herefor more details on this chunk of the game.
Madagascar features 10 levels spanning the escape from the Central Park Zoo to rescuing fellow animals on the island of Madagascar. Each of these levels breaks into a number of submissions, nearly all of which boast a unique style of gameplay. This variety sets Madagascar apart from other titles in its class. A single level can feature five or more different play styles, from arcade shooting sequences to races, and many others in between. You'll find yourself collecting items one minute and defending items from attack the next minute. Or you'll be leading groups of bees to plants in the jungle or weaving through New York traffic searching for Marty.
The beginning escape sequence blends traditional action with light stealth elements. You'll need to traverse several sections of the Zoo, from the Ostrich Pen to Monkey Habitat, without alerting guards to your presence. Like many stealth games, each guard in Madagascar suffers from seriously bad vision. As long as you keep out of their flashlight beam, you'll do just fine. You also need to seek cover under barriers and crawl to avoid detection. Pretty standard stuff, really. You can also kick garbage cans at guards to knock them out and acquire keys to open gates - a necessity if you want to finish the level.
If stealth isn't your cup of tea, you're in luck. The traditional platform stages offer decent fun, as do the militaristic penguin stages, where you control a band of penguins to complete a set of objectives. None of these levels outshines any other concerning quality, and none of them stick out as extraordinary, but they're not broken either. They play well, actually, if very uninspired. Decent level design and interesting environments makes collecting items enjoyable. The same goes for the stealth, action and platform elements, too. While offering little in terms of innovation or graphical pizzazz, they more than get the job done. Which is much more than can be said about most of these big name adaptations.
The only real problems come by way of slightly sluggish controls and, of course, a funky camera. Even though Madagascar grants manual control of the camera, it gets caught behind obstructions too often. Furthermore, the camera pans too slowly, making jumping between platforms a lethal affair at times. Each character controls as though suffering from a massive hangover, too, which doesn't help matters. It's a good thing only a handful of sequences in the game require finesse.
Graphically, Madagascar does a pretty good job of translating the big screen experience. While nothing fancy, each level boasts varied color schemes and environmental animations. Both the urban and jungle settings look equally decent. Certain sections of New York look especially good, but the effect is fleeting.
A good section of the game takes place on Madagascar, so island textures and environmental details can get repetitive. Character animation is smooth for the most part, even though each suffers from particularly bland and blurry textures. Same goes for the environments - cleaner textures would have been nice.
Madagascar features some pretty cool extras. You can purchase apparel, extras and mini-games from the game's Zoovenirs Shop. Apparel simply outfits your character (whichever you happen to be using) with a number of items such as gloves, hats and shoes. The 'extras' available include extra life, items to increase the number of coins you collect and the like.
You can also purchase three mini-games, including Tiki Minigolf, Shuffleboard and Lemur Rave. Each of these mini-games is actually pretty fun and you can purchase several additions to each. For example, you can buy new songs for the Lemur Rave and different boards for Shuffleboard. While Tiki Minigolf and Shuffleboard are self-explanatory, Lemur Rave is a Dance Dance Revolution inspired affair where rhythm is the name of the game.
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