IGN Review of Where the Wild Things Are
It's been a long, long time since I read Where the Wild Things Are with my parents, but even I can tell you that the videogame adaptation of Spike Jonze's recent film has very little to do with the original children's book... or the movie that it's based on. In Where the Wild Things Are, players take control of little Max as he arrives at the land of the Wild Things. He soon meets a group of frightening creatures (the Wild Things) and becomes their king. That's where the similarities stop.
Developer Griptonite obviously needed to mix things up when crafting the plot for Where the Wild Things Are, because the book and film don't have much action in them. In fact, the original story would be extremely hard to mold into an interactive experience, as it's short, sweet and lacking in explosions. But the direction Griptonite took things here is almost startling because of how far removed the game's story is from the original plotline.
After arriving on the island of the Wild Things, Max soon stumbles upon their village. Now I'm going to spoil the rest of the game for you in this paragraph, so skip ahead if you'd like. Once Max is done being tormented and hazed by the various creatures, he soon finds that tragic events are in motion on the island. Stars are raining from the sky and are pounding the land relentlessly. Even worse: inky shadows are consuming the land and threaten to swallow everything up in oily blackness. The game ends with the Wild Things desperately constructing a tower that will reach the moon. And they do. The game actually ends with a playful dance in a moon crater.
Don't mistake my hesitation: I'm a tremendous fan of surreal scenarios and unusual endings, but this setup is so different from the source material, it's almost comical. I suppose this has little to do with the experience as a whole, because there's absolutely no context or motivation given to any of the characters. Max's presence on the island is never explained, and the personalities of the Wild Things are never explored. Even the surreal end goal of the game isn't strong enough to rescue the story.
Where the Wild Things Are, however, is not all about creating a narrative. It's a horribly bland, repetitive platformer with some hack-and-slash elements thrown in for "good measure." Despite my distaste for Where the Wild Things Are, there's actually not much wrong or broken with the formula -- it's just boring. The platforming never extends beyond simple ledge to ledge jumping and some tiptoeing across logs. Occasionally you'll swing from branches or fall down a pit, but I was never excited during my journey, and that could be a result of the game's sluggish controls.
The combat in Where the Wild Things Are is even worse than the uninspired platforming. Players will mash away at the attack button and occasionally block. That's it. The game occasionally throws a curveball at you when your friends, the Wild Things, are taken by enemies and you must help Max save them before they're stolen away. These sections were exciting at first, because your friends' lives were at stake, but by the end of the game I was ready to let them kick the bucket.
How many times can a giant, super-powerful, high-jumping beast get captured by a few measly baddies? Aren't the Wild Things about 100 times stronger than our protagonist?
This is also an ugly game, regardless of on what platform you're playing it. The fundamental experience is identical on the PS3, 360 and the Wii, but it fails to impress on any of the platforms. Even the Wii version, which can usually get away with less spectacular visuals, looks drab and cheap compared to other Wii games. And with very little motion control found in the Wii version, you're essentially playing the same version on each platform.
Where the Wild Things Are also runs poorly, with plenty of framerate hitches to be found and a few bugs here and there. For example, when playing the PS3 version, I needed to wait for one of the Wild Things to arrive at my location to help me proceed through the level. He never came. I actually had to jump off a cliff to kill Max, restart that section and do it over again. Thankfully, the Wild Thing was there the second time.
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