IGN Preview of Over the Hedge
Animated CG movies are all the rage these days, and the recent box-office smashing by Ice Age 2 proves that families are still gobbling them up like a turkey on Thanksgiving. Dreamworks' latest, Over the Hedge, is slated for release in just a few weeks (May 19th, to be exact), and Activision is readying the licensed game for release a little over a week prior to when the film hits theaters. The film follows the antics of RJ the raccoon, Verne the turtle, Hammy the squirrel, Stella the skunk and others as they awake from their winter hibernation in the woods to discover that man has encroached on their territory. A giant hedge is all that separates them from mankind's crazy ways, hence the title.
The game picks up 2/3rds or so of the way through the movie and then continues on after the film's end in an original storyline. After the film leaves off, the wily exterminator places mind-control hats on many of the nearby woodland creatures and it's up to RJ, Verne, Hammy and Stella to help them out. The game allows players to take control of any of the four main characters and is played in pairs at all times. If you have a second player who wants to hop in, they just need to hit Start at any time and take over. If they drop out, the computer picks back up and helps you on your way.
Hopping in and out of the game is really smooth and seems to work quite well. One pretty cool aspect of having two characters on-screen at all times is that you're able to use combo attacks by having one character stand on the other's shoulders and perform a spin attack.
Over the Hedge is an action-platformer at its heart, meaning that it features a rather simplistic control scheme and a quick and easy combat system. The game is geared towards a younger audience, but while most children-oriented games simplify almost every aspect of their beings to make things easier for kids, Over the Hedge takes a welcome approach in that while being easier than most core audience games, it's not dumbed down to the point where even babies could complete it - there's still somewhat of a challenge to be had. In order to compensate for this, you can't actually die, so while there's really no way to "lose" at the game, kids will need to employ hearty skills in order to progress. It's a nice mix that a few games like LEGO Star Wars have used to great success.
One of the levels we saw was a backyard where we had to dodge tripwires and other traps that the exterminator had set up. Hitting the tripwires meant that something nearby would shoot something unpleasant in our general direction. A robotic barbeque hovered about via its propellers and tried to drop hot charcoals on us. At one point we angered a tennis ball launcher and it began firing its ammunition at us like we were tennis rackets. Once inside the house, we had to deal with some motion sensors that went off if you ran through them, so we had to creep through them to reach our goal.
While the backyard and house were rather action-heavy, a rollercoaster section later on the game was more geared around platforming elements. It mostly locked us to two dimensions and felt something like one of the original Crash Bandicoot games. Moving platforms and such posed bits of timing and jumping challenges, but as mentioned, if we'd miss a crucial jump we'd just come right back to try it again, so no worries.
Aside from the main story-driven levels, we also had a chance to check out a couple of Over the Hedge's mini-games. Mini-games will include Bumper Carts, a bumper cars combat game based around golf carts, RC Racing, a top-down racer, and Range Driver, a target practice game. In Range Driver, players need to use their ranged attacks (also available in the main story mode) by holding down a targeting button, lining up their shots and opening fire at certain targets. The mini-games are rather basic, sure, but they're entertaining for a bit and should please kids enough to distract them from the main game from time to time, especially for two-player bouts at Bumper Carts.
What we've seen of Over the Hedge so far makes it look like it could be a great game for some of the younger gamers out there, and even interesting enough for older players to jump in from time to time and share a bit of the fun with the kids. Check out the media page for a clip of the game in action and some shots of the fun.
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