Imagine for a second, two entertainment giants. They are two wholly dissimilar forms of amusement, but a big corporation thinks a combination of the two would be a huge seller. After all, they’re both cash cows, right? Of course, I am speaking of Dreamworks’ hit Shrek films, and Nintendo’s million selling Super Smash Bros
. Activision and Amaze Entertainment have taken it upon themselves to make a Smash Bros. style Shrek fighting game, and the two don’t get along very well.
I’ll be honest; I’ve never liked Shrek much. Personally I think it’s Dreakworks’ attempt to cash in on Pixar’s success. Dreamworks has great animation, but tries to pander to the adult crowd with fart jokes and Michael Meier’s signature form of humor. The result is a big-budget Saturday morning cartoon in the vein of Nickelodeon’s crap, with none of the clever wit and quality of Toy Story or The Incredibles.
Now that I’ve stepped down from my soapbox, I’ll also state that I judge a game independently of the franchise it is based upon. The sad truth is, the Shrek films could’ve made an entertaining brawler game. Amaze just didn’t capture the magic or frenetic gameplay of Smash Bros.
The concept seems a sure winner at first: choose one of the satirical fairy-tale Shrek characters and battle another one in a locale from the movies. There certainly isn’t a lack of variety here, with a good host of characters and a suitable selection of themed arenas. The green ogre, his donkey sidekick and a host of other misfits can duke it out in palace backdrops replete with traps and items, which is in essence the golden Smash Bros. formula. The way the game controls, and the fundamental concept behind it, is the real problem.
The whole idea is to “slam” your opponent more times that he/she can slam you before time runs out. A slam is charged up by repeatedly beating on your opponent, and once you have enough power built up, an icon flashes above your player indicating that you can let loose a devastating attack. These attacks can theoretically miss, but it takes several seconds for the charge to wear off, and most of the characters have slam moves that are very hard to avoid. So, matches degrade into button mashing at close range, until one player has enough charge to slam the other. This also gives quick, small characters with fast punch cycling rates a lopsided advantage. If you can corner the other guy and hammer him until you have a slam, why bother with elaborate combos?
This concept isn’t really terrible, it just doesn’t leave mush room for strategy. As I said, some characters are just too slow to play effectively, and with no score system other than a tally of slams, the standard melee mode feels limited. The camera doesn’t help much either; everything takes place from a two-thirds perspective. This is a radical departure from the side-scrolling approach that most fighting games have, the perspective works particularly well in Smash Bros
and Soul Calibur.
The almost isometric perspective in Shrek Super Slam
makes judging depth a pain, as well as escaping from cheap pummel attacks.
A handful of items serve to spruce up the gameplay, however the majority of the goodies are difficult to aim and once again are ineffective when cheap button mashing works just as well. The perspective is especially troubling when trying to fire a gun, and with no lock-on feature for the projectile weapons, they’re really more of an annoyance than a help.
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