Over the Hedge for the Gameboy Advance is a fabulously mediocre game. I realize that "fabulous" and "mediocre" are not often used together in the same breath, or for that matter the same sentence, but let me explain. There is not one area that this game excels. Nor is there an area in which it is painfully bad. This game is perfectly content to straddle the line between awful and stupendous. It is, in short, the very definition of "meh".
Let us start with the plot. You play primarily as RJ and Verne, one a wise-cracking raccoon with a hefty debt to a hungry bear, and the other everything you would think about how a turtle would behave. Except maybe a little faster. RJ previously acquired the testicular fortitude to steal an entire winter's worth of food from the growly hibernator, except it didn't pan out so well and now he's stuck trying to figure out a way to replace the food on pain of death. RJ, panicking, stumbles across a group of woodland animals who are terrified and confused about the huge housing development that has been erected and the green leafy thing called hedge that divides their worlds. Enter Verne, the cautious and vaguely agoraphobic turtle and leader of the animals, who cautiously goes along with RJ's plan to enter through the hedge into the world of the humans, and unknowingly into RJ's plan to pay back his debt to the bear.
The control scheme is nondescript. You walk, you run, and there's a standard attack as well as a special attack that must be purchased.
There are also skills unique certain levels. Different portions of the game employ different skill sets; in one level you may be able to dash and attack, whether in another you can't and must overcome the puzzle at hand by sneaking and hiding. This resulted in an unnecessary amount of dying on my part, and with no explanation for the sudden change in abilities I think it will be very confusing to small children. Also, the collision detection is brutal. I can't count how many times poor Verne fell down a manhole when he was a good quarter inch away on my screen from the opening of the abyss. The scheme is clunky, not as noticeable in earlier levels but it gradually becomes a problem. Manipulating my character around the screen in later levels resulted in me gripping my GBA so hard my fingers turned white. If it frustrated me, it will most definitely frustrate a five year old.
This game has some repetitive moments. I would estimate that about 80% of total game play is spent picking up objects necessary to advance to the next level. Most of that time spent has you running around picking up candy which you exchange for objects outside back at your home base which are mostly useless save for a few moments entertainment value of playing with the puzzle objects found in the game. There are a select few, however, which are very useful, such as the stamina and health upgrades. Considering the game is nigh impossible later on without the stamina upgrades (even for me, who is a considerable amount older than this target audience), I spent a lot of time playing through earlier levels to get the candy necessary, and the whole “run around and get the thing” shtick got old . This being a children's game I have to say I'm a bit worried about the whole candy thing. Where does this candy come from? I half-wonder if rather young children will take a cue to start picking up things in the dirt and running after opossums to trade their grubby loot for a lamp or something. Although I suppose if I hadn't been going through earlier levels looking for candy I would be going through later levels doing the exact same thing except with chips, pizza, and cookies. Nobody wins.
The graphics are so-so. They're not pretty, they're not ugly, they're just there. Sort of like street signs; they tell you what's going on but you can't really say much about how they look except in vague terms. They are functional, there are no glitches, and you are able to tell a movable object from a boundary wall. The humans, who are as you may have guessed, the bad guys, are pleasantly racially diverse. I've seen more people of color in this game than I think I have in all other games combined.
The sound is just that, sound. I turned off the music after a while because there's only so many cheerily orchestrated beeps that I can listen to, but other users may have a higher tolerance for this kind of thing. Probably not their parents though. When you die in a level your character does usually yell something amusing, most often “Nooo!!!!” It made me giggle the first time. Now its just a trumpet of defeat.
As far as extra stuff goes, you can purchase a TV and a video game console from the possums as well as puzzle objects if you gather enough candy, but by that time I just wanted to roll the credits and be done. So that's precisely what I did.
All in all I hesitate to recommend this game, even for kids. It has play mechanics that gave me pause as an adult, and a few moments that just plain didn't make sense in terms of why I died. Parents who do get this game for especially little kids might want to take a few minutes to explain that picking candy up off the ground in real life is a bad idea, just in case. Parents with easily frustrated children may want to invest in some earplugs and a few hours to deal with “why can't I beat this stupid etc. etc.” Parents that have children with neither of these qualities will have peace and quiet for a few hours but, for the money, no real long term entertainment value for their kids.
At times confusing, other times frustrating, and yet others filled with apathy, I don't really approve of this game. There are better games for really little kids out there and older children will most likely be quickly tired of the repetitive nature of this game.
As an adult I'm pretty unenthusiastic and vaguely wonder how good it is to sanction picking strange candy up off the ground.
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