posted 6/29/2005 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: Xbox
Dreamworks Pictures' Madagascar doesn't break any new ground in the animated talking animals movie genre, and unsurprisingly also follows the conventional marketing ploy of releasing a video game in conjunction with the release of the movie. As is usually the case, the video game has to toe a line between being simply a re-packaging of the movie into a lower resolution media, or departing so far from the story line of the movie that the only real similarity is the title. Activision's Madagascar video game does a good job of finding a compromise between those two extremes. The levels in the game closely follow the progression of the story in the movie, but take the opportunity to expand on some of the story lines. In fact, it's almost like an interactive deleted scenes feature from the movie's DVD release. Scenes that lasted only seconds in the movie are expanded out in cut scenes and game play to provide a deeper level of detail. This works very well for either playing the game before seeing the movie, or waiting until after seeing the movie to play the game.

While the story of the game complements the actual movie quite well, the video quality of the Xbox version is below the capabilities of the Xbox hardware. The characters are blockier than one would expect or desire. Other clues that the game was developed to a lower capability console and simply ported to the Xbox crop up now and then: at one point the narration suggested using the 'circle' button to perform a function. While mildly disappointing, none of this seriously detracts from the entertainment value of the game.

The voices and voice acting are good. The voices sound very close to those of the movie. The dialog in the cut scenes is clever and very similar to that of the movie in tone and level of sophistication. In other words, there will be poopy jokes. As with many games of this type, however, the one-liners from the characters during game play quickly become repetitive and at times annoying. Kids don't seem to mind that as much as some adults, though.

We tested Madagascar with kids ranging from six to eleven years old. The older kids felt that the game struck a good balance between being too easy and too hard. They didn't think that any of the levels really stood out as exemplary, nor did they feel that there were any really bad ones. They completed the game in 10 or 11 hours each, offering two evenings of peace and quiet to their parents. The six year old needed a little help to get going, but was soon able to play by herself. As a parent, this is exactly what you want. "Daddy, can you come here and help me get through level six?" is not what you want to hear while you're trying to pay bills. When asked if they thought they would ever return to the game for a replay, they thought they might come back to it after a few months, but were also likely to load it up every now and then to play the minigames.
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