When you have a hit franchise on your hands, you really want to capitalize on it as best you can. In the case of Wall-E, Disney and Pixar's latest film, the titular robot was a star before his movie came out, pulling at kids and adult's heartstrings alike while making them laugh at the same time. But with all the attention focused on the current generation of consoles, particularly their improved visual capabilities that could reasonably approach that of the film, how would the PS2 version of the game fare? Quite well, actually –- Thanks to a focus on varied gameplay and puzzles within Wall-E's adventure, the PS2 version is an enjoyable action title that will keep fans of the movie engaged.
For the most part, Wall-E follows the plot of the movie, with Earth's population having evacuated the planet due to overwhelming levels of trash and other waste byproducts of humanity's consumer urge. Left behind are a horde of Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class robots (or Wall-Es), who are tasked with collecting and cleaning the world from top to bottom so that one day, people can live on its surface once again. However, after hundreds of years, only one Wall-E droid remains, lonely carrying out its job as best it can until one day, a ship lands and deploys a robot named Eve, whose task is to search for life on Earth. As Wall-E falls in love with Eve, Eve discovers that he has found what she's been looking for and takes off for space. Following his heart, Wall-E chases her and essentially discovers a life outside of his sheltered world.
Players control Wall-E for most of the game, moving the little robot through various environments solving puzzles and defeating enemies. While the odds may be against him, Wall-E has a number of ways to help him get past these obstacles. Wall-E can transform into a box and charge through objects and boxes. This move gives him a speed boost, which he can further translate into momentum during jumps. This is extremely useful because Wall-E will need to accelerate in half-pipe situations to cross certain gaps or leap up to new areas to collect energy charges. Charges are important because many security doors and areas are protected by doorways that require a certain number of vials before they unlock, so Wall-E will need to look for these in the environment. Many of them will be trapped in boxes, which can be broken apart by cubes that he automatically generates from trash that he rolls over. Incidentally, these cubes can also be thrown into switches, objects or other targets. Wall-E also comes with a laser that he can use to cut through objects, which can only be recharged with laser energy vials.
Apart from these maneuvers, Wall-E has a global map of each stage that can be called up at any time that helps him navigate each area successfully. But sometimes, Wall-E might need some help, particularly once he gets on board the Axiom spaceship. To enlist fellow droids, Wall-E can play a song from "Hello Dolly," charming the other robot and allowing him to use their services, such as flashlights or bouncing platforms to help him reach new sections. But perhaps the most engaging feature is Wall-E's first person view that he'll use to target certain objects, as well as scan the environment. Scanning is important because hidden throughout each one of the 27 stages are lost artifacts from the human race. By identifying where these items are and then picking them up, a small vignette will play that highlights Wall-E's child-like discovery of the item and his interaction with it.
On top of this, Wall-E will have a number of puzzles that he'll have to bypass to move through different environments. Some of these will be environmental, such as vortexes that are powered by energy cubes that will need to be shot with a laser before they disappear. Others are tied to access doors, but test your memory or your pattern matching skills. Depending on the access panel, players will have to remember where certain colors are, trip a specific number of switches or hit a button before time runs out. Including elements like this adds a mild, but engaging challenge to the standard "find switch and open door" mechanic. There are even energy dispensers in the form of slot machines that Wall-E will need to access to gain energy for his laser. Match the proper icon and he'll be rewarded; miss and gain nothing.
This amount of puzzle diversity adds a different dimension to the game that makes it much more than the simplified gameplay you'll find in the current gen version. Players move back and forth between platforming sequences, action moments, shooting gallery sections on rails, puzzle solving sections and even races and chases. There are even homages to Frogger as Wall-E leaps back and forth through heavily trafficked areas. In fact, the transitions between these 27 stages (which, incidentally, is three times that of the current gen) are wisely made according to the moments of the plot, so you expect the timed race sequences during the high paced tension moments.
The largest downside is that some of the most creative segments within the game are too short. Many of the race through environment areas are over in less than two minutes (which counts as a stage). Players only need to make three laps during chases to win, and the laser cutting segments where you aim and fire at specific objects are only included twice and take seconds to complete. Some players will also find that the sentinel robots on the Axiom are a bit tougher to defeat that you'd expect. While they can easily be dispatched by a cube, they can toss cubes back at Wall-E with unerring accuracy and take a lot of shots from Wall-E's laser before they explode. This can be extremely daunting when you're facing a room of six or more, all of whom want to surround and melt Wall-E with their energy blasts. The final issue is that some puzzles won't be readily apparent for some kids, such as puzzle sections that require you to bring one block from an area to another to move forward, or magnet blocks that attract certain cubes in specific pathways. That could get some young gamers stuck for a while and frustrate them.
Now, you do get a chance to play as Eve, Wall-E's object of affection, but these moments are few and far between. Unlike the current gen versions, her levels are restricted primarily to race segments, where she flies through areas and fires her gun at items in her path or explosive boxes scattered along her route. Much of this is practically on rails, so as long as you keep Eve off the walls or running into the floor or ceiling, it's rather easy to complete her sections and move on. Again, her segments suffer from the same issues that Wall-E's races have, but since she's not the focus of the title, it's understandable.
At the end of each level, players receive points for completing these stages, along with any mini-games that they might have unlocked by collecting artifacts or destroying all of the crates on a level. These points can be redeemed for bonus items, such as concept art or additional cheats that change the game. For example, players can substitute the Hello Dolly songs with tracks from The Incredibles. Not only does this provide motivation for players to return to previously completed levels, it gives them an incentive to fully explore every environment they go into.
Surprisingly, what players will find with Wall-E is a title that looks almost as good as the current gen version, with no frame rate drops and a much better camera. In fact, fighting with the camera is practically non-existent in the game, and the action is well framed and presented for players to accomplish their goals easily. What's more, there is no flicker to be seen, and the amount of screen tearing and clipping is kept down to a minimum. While you will obviously see some weaker textures here and there, and some bland environments, the presentation of the title is quite strong. Audio is extremely good as well, and there's enough variety in the game, particularly during the mini-cutscenes when Wall-E is exploring the use of an item to make you laugh.
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