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A few months ago Activision released Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure
which was essentially a kid-friendly version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
. Many saw it as just another kid’s game but those who were lucky enough to play it were privileged enough to find out that it was probably the best made “kid’s game” on the market. Now with the release of Shrek 2
in theatres Activision unleashes another bombshell on the 13 and under market with this self-titled game.
What makes this game so good is that although it was developed for kids it has adult-style production values. Instead of going the cheap route and trying to cash in on the license like TDK did, Activision went to an established developer who it knew could develop a competent game. What you have here is a game that’s excellent no matter which way you look at it, Shrek 2 license or not.
Although the video game shares the same name as the movie it takes some liberties with the story. It takes you to new places and introduces you to new characters that you didn’t see in the movie. For instance you’ll encounter Little Red Riding Hood and venture through a graveyard with her in the video game, a scene that’s not in the movie. The overall storyline is the same though with King Harold conspiring with the Fairy Godmother to kill off Shrek and marry Fiona and Prince Charming. Some of the setups are different too such as the way that Shrek encounters Puss in Boots. Here he runs into him because he takes a walk in the woods after reading Fiona’s diary while in the movie he runs into him when the King invites him out for a hunt in the woods. Otherwise you get the basic gist of the movie here in the videogame but it’s much more fleshed out for your benefit.
Most kids games go with some stupid mini-game concept but Activision took a different route. It’s a full-fledged adventure, dungeon romp style. Think of it as a child friendly version of Hunter
or Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
and you can get a pretty firm grasp of the game’s concept. There are always four characters on the screen at a time; Shrek, Fiona (in Ogre form), Donkey and a special guest star. All of the characters have their own special unique abilities that are required in order to pass the levels. For instance, in the first stage you have to use Fiona’s ability to slow time to catch some lightning fast fairies. Later on you’ll need to use Donkey’s special burrow kick ability in order to knock down trees that block your path. What’s great about this is that it encourages the use of each and every character. It makes the four-player aspect seem less gimmicky and more like an integral part of the gameplay.To add up some variety there’s this feature called “Hero Time” which is essentially a mini-game starring one of the game’s lead characters. They play like games that you’re familiar with, so Fiona’s Hero Time in the beginning of the game is of her singing with the birds (like in the first movie) as you press the corresponding buttons to get her to hit the right notes. The next one stars Donkey as he rides the dragon and chases after a runaway carriage. There’s an especially long and drawn out one against Puss’N’Boots later on in the game but they’re pretty tolerable for the most part.
The animation in the game is superb as every single character in the game fights, runs, jumps and behaves uniquely from one another. I also appreciated how the designers had the foresight to include intermittent animations to help smoothen out the look of the game. They’re all well done too, from ‘Hood’s innocent walk with both hands on the basket to her full fledged skip, everything’s interesting to watch. Everything is also very colorful and collecting coins and objects yields a bright and shiny burst that my girlfriend just can’t get enough of.
For the most part the audio is very well done and coincides with the quality of the movie. Activision couldn’t secure the actual voice actors from the movie but managed to get some pretty good sound alikes. It’s understandable that the game lacks appearances from the likes of Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy and John Cleese but the guys did pretty well with what they had. There are a few instances where the tailing words in the sentences get cut off but it’s not detrimental to the overall quality of the game.
If I had complaints with the game it would reside in its length. About an hour into the game I was already 30 percent through and it took me less than eight hours to complete on the first run through. In terms of replay value each level has a checklist with a number of different goals for you to accomplish. This usually requires you to collect a certain object or defeat a certain enemy. It’s nothing too amazing but doing so will unlock special bonus levels and features for you to check out.
One of the game’s neatest features is its multiplayer capabilities. Instead of forcing the gamer to select a set amount of players from the start and holding them to it the game goes the Brute Force
route and allows players to leave and join at their convenience. This means that players can jump in and leave at any time without disrupting the flow of the game. Up to four players can play together at a time so if you have some kids and extra controllers lying around you might want to pick up the GameCube or Xbox version.
Don’t be fooled by the license, Shrek 2
is an excellent game based on its own merits. The fact that it does a great job of incorporating a major motion picture license makes the product all that much better. Even though the game is a bit on the short side, it’s still a lot of fun for adults and kids alike. If you’re a huge Shrek fan or just a casual gamer who likes dungeon romps you should make it a point to check out Shrek 2.