IGN Review of Napoleon Dynamite
That's the quote on the back of the Napoleon Dynamite game and the instruction booklet, both of which aren't the actual quote from the movie. Even if you excuse the fact that this is a game based on a movie that has long since burned through its share of social relevancy or catchphrases, there's still the fact that it's a mini-game collection.
That's not to say that there can't be good games made up of nothing but mini-games, but 7 Studios managed to not only assemble a mostly forgettable group of almost 30 bite-sized offerings, but it force fed painful wanna-be Napoleon-isms into the game. The result is a licensed title that completely misses the charm and quirkiness of the movie's well-intentioned vibe and instead defaults to regurgitating catchphrases that have long since died.
The "story" in the game is delivered through a series of either text boxes with disembodied heads or jointed sprites with flip-flop arms and legs that converse dryly with each other. Rarely do they actually follow the script of the movie (and when they do, it's usually horribly out of context), but the game only loosely follows the movie anyway.
And so, after Tina, Napoleon's pet llama, escapes out into the wild, the off-kilter lead heads into town, all the while participating in "wacky" and "outrageous" mini-games. These games are broken down into chunks corresponding at least in a basic way to stuff that happens in the movie: you'll tow Kip on a bike (though not into town like the movie, but instead out of town), and participate in Rex Kwon Do (sadly, you'll get no disembodied Diedrich Bader head here). There's also whack a piñata. In the game's defense, it does incorporate quite a few moments from the movie, like a dance-off rhythm action game or the ability to defend Nessie when Japanese scientists try to blow her up. However, especially in the case of the former, it's recycled so many times that by the end you don't really care too much about winning a multi-stage dance competition.
Other concepts, like a side-scrolling shooter, are just given a face-lift and repurposed. Yeah, sure, in one you're driving a lowrider, in another you're flying on Pegasus and in another you're feeding Tina, but you're still lazily shooting at stuff. Ditto for the parts where you ride a bike and hit jumps/tow Kip/use a horse to launch over a lake. Throw in a couple of instances of using a bow and arrow or throwing a football with the same basic strength and angle gauges (the football game in particular is eerily similar to the whack-a-penguin or whack-a-student Flash games that were popular a while back), and the supposed collection of 30 or so games shrinks quite a bit.
Admittedly, there are a few of the mini-games that are tolerable. The Pipe Dream-like computer hacking game is decent. Assembling the time machine requires that Tetris-like shapes have to be crammed perfectly onto a gridded set of connectors, and even if it is a bit of a biter, the football game offers some nice variety thanks to the objects you can hit or pressing the X Button at the right time to keep the ball bouncing.
I realize I'm harping awfully hard about a value-priced game, and one that at least tries to embrace its inherent budget status. After all, it has visuals that look like paper cutouts all taped, paper clipped or thumb tacked together. Unfortunately, the lack of things like voice talent from the cast (there are sound clips used, but the few that are there are recycled constantly) and an overwhelming feeling that the game just missed the mark -- both in timing and in approach -- permeates the whole experience. Little things like staring at a loading screen for a few seconds just to see someone say, "great job" and, "thanks" just exacerbate things.
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