There are some things that are so cute, so heart warming, that you can't help but laugh or smile when you see them. When it comes to Disney and Pixar's latest hit film, Wall-E, this seems like an innate response to the lonely droid that manages to find love and adventure through strange and unlikely circumstances. With such an engaging character and tale, you'd hope that the game adaptation of the film would be just as good. Unfortunately, Wall-E is just another lackluster movie game with surprisingly weak visuals, poor design and loads of technical issues that doesn't do the diminutive robot justice.
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 and frequently find themselves navigating the little droid through levels that are practically obstacle courses filled with dangerous water hazards, pits or other hazards. As you move through these environments, you'll frequently find yourself tasked with different platforming objectives, such as hitting switches to move platforms for Wall-E to jump on or throwing cubes into bins to open gates. Fortunately, there are a ton of cubes that Wall-E can generate from different vending stations, which will disperse one of four kinds of materials for these blocks. Apart from the generic cubes, he can make heavier blocks, magnetized squares that repulse metal and charge cubes that are explosive, but power up pylons that open new pathways for him. Wall-E is also incredibly compact, and can compress himself into a portable block for a variety of reasons, such as being bounced by pneumatic platforms or cylinders from one area to another.
While you'll control Wall-E for most of the game, players will also get a chance to control Eve and take to the skies. Eve has the ability to accelerate and brake on a dime, as well as fire lasers at any object that gets in her way, which is quite useful as you're trying to clear a path through pipes or other confined spaces. Many of these blasts are powerful, but they can be further augmented with another pick up that boosts each shot's strength for a short time. On top of that, players can deploy a power surge blast to short circuit nearby pylons or charge them up quickly, allowing Eve to reach new areas. Eve can even pick up Wall-E for short periods of time to cross dangerous areas. However, unlike Wall-E, Eve isn't shackled by the ground and can fly in any direction, giving her full freedom to explore her environments as she goes about her tasks.
Unfortunately, that's one of the largest downsides to the game, because controlling Eve is infinitely more engaging than Wall-E. With her, you can perform agile turns, loops and other maneuvers through environments. With Wall-E, you'll find yourself frequently fighting two problems: controls that are sometimes nonsensical or affected by environmental factors that aren't immediately apparent, and an atrociously flawed camera system. First, let's handle the control issues. For the most part, players will be able to make their way through environments with a few exceptions: Wall-E doesn't really have any kind of speed to speak of, nor does he have a lot of height to his jumps, so you'll find yourself just clearing certain leaps. However, when Wall-E compresses himself into a box, his control can literally go out of the window. While you can influence his movements with the analog stick, he's frequently at the whim of the environment or the area he's in, which sucks when you realize that most of these have hazards attached to them or drop Wall-E directly to his doom. It's even worse when you get to sections with magnetized walls or air jets, which practically removes all control from the player. You can push the analog stick with the same force and find yourself either crawling from one area to another or suddenly accelerated you faster than you expected, which can frequently force you to make a mistake or accidentally kill the droid. What's more, certain surfaces will appear to randomly remove any traction that he has, making it seem as though the robot (who has traction treads) is ice skating. This makes some sense when the areas he's moving on look slick, but when you're moving on concrete or metal and you appear to slide around, this is both confusing and frustrating.
This is coupled with a lot of "rinse and repeat" gameplay sections, and your tolerance for Wall-E will drop sharply. You'll constantly grab fuses, throw them into vending stations and make cubes to hit switches or power up pylons to access a new area, where you'll do the same thing over and over again. Considering that Wall-E spends a section of the game in a wasteland full of garbage, I'm surprised that he didn't use some of these blocks or trash to construct other items to help him accomplish his goals, or scavenge more items to decorate his storage trailer (which is particularly striking because you collect pieces of junk scattered through levels like action figures and suitcases to unlock items). The largest twist to the title comes with the tumbler system that's scattered through the game, which presents a triangular faced area that Wall-E can manipulate and access new gameplay sections. By completing all the actions on these tumbler areas, you can unlock secrets.
Then again, that's assuming that you're willing to put up with the ridiculous camera system, which is truly awful. Not only is it zoomed in too tightly on some sections, it fights you for camera angles and position as you move through environments, making it extremely difficult to navigate through the world. In fact, there were multiple occasions where the camera would go through the level architecture, making it practically impossible to see where your characters are. There were also multiple times where these changes would cause tons of flicker on screen or exacerbate the screen tearing that cropped up during the game, which is just a small portion of the visual issues that constantly plague Wall-E left and right.
Simply put, this is not a game that looks good. I don't expect the same level of fidelity that the Pixar film has, but the heavy amount of grainy textures and bland environments makes this look like a last generation game. Even worse are some of the other technical issues that constantly occur. For example, there are massive frame rate drops that plague all aspects of the game, from the pre-rendered cutscenes to basic gameplay with practically nothing happening on screen. In fact, you'll be amazed at how frequently the game chugs along at seemingly non-existent issues. Apart from this, there are significant collision detection issues that are truly nonsensical. How objects can be insubstantial one second and then rock solid the next astounds me, but you'll frequently run into this issue, particularly within the race sequences. There's also clipping issues, where you'll find items, objects and enemies that will be suspended halfway through items. While this was definitely an issue within the PS3 and 360 builds, the Wii is by far the worst one of the group, with little to no particle effects and animation that is shoddy. For example, when "explosions" aren't ringed in smoke or fire, but simply involve the detonated objects being plucked from the screen, you have a serious visual issue. The same can be said for items that are grasped and moved without Wall-E actually reaching his arms forward and interacting with them. Honestly, it's just disappointing to experience.
On top of all of these issues is the fact that there is very little reason to replay the title once you've beaten it. Thankfully, Wall-E isn't a short game even though there are only a limited number of levels to it. While you may spend some time collecting the Wallops or secret items scattered through levels, you're only really unlocking concept art or costumes for multiplayer matches. That would be intriguing, were the multiplayer truly fun. However, many of these match types feel more like afterthoughts than a legitimate section, and even kids will burn out with these limited sections after a few rounds. Even the co-op sections are dubious, with weak explanations of what players need to do to extend their time limits to continue playing. What's more, these modes don't even feel connected to anything that you've really done within the single player campaign. All around, this would not satiate a kid who's eagerly awaiting the DVD after having seen the movie.
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