IGN Review of Shrek the Third
Activision has passed Shrek games for the Nintendo DS from developer to developer and the first two times the results were less than favorable. Perhaps hoping for a "third time's the charm" sort of deal, the license has been put in the hands Vicarious Visions and the guys over there did what they do best: breathed innovation into an otherwise stale title. Shrek the Third, the latest iteration in the ogre storybook movie based game, uses some innovative controls and interesting features to make it stand out from other license games. It's got some flaws for sure, but don't write this one off as shovelware. ''''For the DS version of the game, the developers opted to not follow the plot of the movie, and have instead created a little side story taking place in the middle of the film. Think of Shrek the Third as an interactive deleted scene wherein Merlin gets turned into a parfait and it's up to Shrek, Puss and Arthur to turn him back by collecting golden fairies. Donkey, although not a playable character, lends a hand (hoof?) by using Merlin's wand to give the heroes some magical assists. The original plot, even if it's not all that clever of one, is still a welcome change from the other versions of the game which follow the movie. It makes the game feel more like a companion to the movie, rather than a simple rehashing of it. ''''An original storyline isn't the only thing separating Shrek the Third from the average movie game. Vicarious Visions has made full use of the touch screen and microphone to make this DS game actually play like a DS game, and not a shinier Game Boy Advance title. All three characters are controlled almost entirely with the touch screen, save for the D-pad to move them left and right. Attacking, jumping, defending and magic spells are all controlled with the stylus. So too is switching characters, since Shrek the Third is played with all three heroes simultaneously. ''''Each hero plays different, too. The three character switch shtick has been done before, yeah, but in Shrek the Third the characters feel like unique entities, not just the same person with one special ability. Each one has a variety of things they bring to the field and so players will be switching between them all to do dozens of different things. Shrek will beat people up and bash down barriers, while Puss in Boots jumps onto ledges and sneaks under passages. Even weak sauce Artie makes use of his shield to act as the defensive player, and can use his shield to activate hard to reach switches or cross rivers. ''''Shrek the Third uses the tried and true 3D models in a 2D landscape method. The character models are easily recognizable, despite their low level of detail. They are somewhat small though, especially given that the levels span both screens. It is still a game that is being sold on the basis of the characters, so some nicer looking models would have helped make the game look sharper. Still, the character move fluidly and the environments are pretty well detailed, even if they are ho hum levels like Forest and Castle. Even with three characters and one or two moving on the screen at once the game doesn't slow down. ''''''''Each character gets plenty of opportunity to shine too. The developers did a good job balancing each level to make sure that players are almost constantly switching characters in order to solve the plethora of puzzles facing them. Further fueling the characters spotlight time is a considerably large amount of voice acting. Sure, it's not Eddie Murphy or Mike Meyers, but they got those somewhat believable sound-alikes from the McDonald's commercials. Donkey, as the narrator and advice giver, is almost constantly talking, and reads nearly everything displayed on the screen, which is extra handy for the younger crowd which may not be super adept at reading, or for those too lazy to string written words together. Each of the three playable characters has his own slew of grunts and oofs, as well as a few one liners to say while attacking and exploring. Luckily none of them are bad jokes like in Shrek Smash N Crash, so it doesn't get grating. ''''The major drawback to having three characters to play as is that it's three different control schemes to figure out. For the most part the controls are pretty basic, but each character has a bit of wonkiness to it that can make an otherwise simple game a tad frustrating. Figuring out trajectory, both of Puss jumping and Arthur throwing his shield will take a bit of work since they don't always seem to react the way they're supposed to. ''''Mastering each character becomes a lot easier if the player can focus on just one, which is where the multiplayer comes in. Three games can link up to play through the story mode together. It opens up an opportunity for parents to play the game with their kids, though mom and dad will have to play a game that is clearly meant for children. Don't expect the Shrek game to be enjoyable to all ages like the movies are, this one is just for the kids. It will likely be a disappointment to many fans of the movie that the game moves at a very casual pace and is pretty short. It's not that Shrek the Third is a bad kid game. It works very well as one. But the movies are much more than children's films and thus the title will attract more than just children gamers.
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