Shrek Super Slam

Review

posted 1/2/2006 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
Platforms: DS
Activision made an attempt at a Shrek brawler on the bigger consoles, with lukewarm results. It seems that the more a license is tapped for games, the worse the games get. It also seems that big companies like Activision don’t realize this, because they went ahead and churned out Shrek Super Slam for the DS. The results are...exactly the same as the console release.

I’m serious. Just about all the flaws of the GameCube Shrek Super Slam are back in the DS port. We still have the limited gameplay options, the wonky camera angle and the annoying items. But, to be fair I’ll list the redeeming features of the DS version.

First of all, hats off to Activision for implementing some touch screen functionality. I’ve certainly seen lesser attempts to utilize the innovative hardware, and it’s nice to see that the developers gave it a go. While the top screen is relegated to displaying the 3D action, the bottom screen handles inventory, power levels and score.

The most important aspect of the bottom screen is the fairy dust meter. It’s a little test tube that fills with a blue substance as you land hits on an opponent. Once full, you can use a slam attack, much like in the consoles version. Unfortunately, the only difference here is an aesthetic one.

The filling “slam” word below the characters in the console release and the fairy dust meter are exactly the same in function, and having the meter on the bottom screen can be problematic during a heated battle, as you’ll be constantly darting your eyes back and forth between both screens. Touch functionality is applied only to items and camera zoom, which, while nice, is using the bare minimum of the screen’s abilities.

Another surprising positive is a greater number of modes in the DS port. The vacuous story campaign returns, but is accompanied by some mini game challenges. Melee mode is back as well, but with some new features. Aside from the standard timed match, you can implement a fairy dust score limit, a race to collect the most slams, and a “tag” game. The latter involves slamming the other players to tag them, and whoever is “it” when the time runs out loses. The aggravating king of the hill mode has been dropped. It was a good move to add some more ways to play, but all of the modes are still variations on a theme that doesn’t work very well: slam the other player and run around so they can’t slam you back. Repeat until time runs out/score limit is met.

So, for better or worse, the gameplay survives the console to portable transition mostly intact. It’s the rest of the experience that takes a hit. Graphically, the DS game is far inferior to its console cousins, and understandably so. The developers could’ve done a better job scaling it down, however. Polygon models are painfully blocky, as are the environments and arenas. In fact, the characters retain only their basic shapes and colors, so that you can barely tell who or what they’re supposed to be.

Music is basic filler, with enough of the Shrek flavor to make it fit in with the rest of the package, but it’s nothing catchy and is only passable. The biggest audio letdown, however, is the total absence of spoken dialogue. The voice actors for the console versions did a great job impersonating the Shrek cast, and having them replaced with text boxes is a major gripe, especially for fans of the movies. Ultimate Spider Man, a game published by Activision no less, had great voice work on the DS. There’s no excuse for an absence of voice acting when it’s possible on the DS. As far as sound effects go, they are mostly unchanged from the console release, but at a lower sample rate.

After enduring the chop job on the sound and visuals, I was treated to far and away the worst part of Shrek Super Slam DS: the multiplayer. On a whole, the multi portion isn’t all that bad for a portable license churn-out. The big problem is that it takes more than one card to play. That’s right, you and three of your friends will need to each buy a copy of this sub-par game in order to play over Bluetooth. Obviously, WiFi support is nonexistent. Once you get past that disappointment, multiplayer is fraught with all the problems inherent to the single player. The same modes from melee apply, which gives multi as much variety as the solo game, and there is a smattering of unlockables and extra costumes. That said, there really isn’t much in the multiplayer to keep hardcore fighter fans interested, much less the casual gamer or even a diehard Shrek fan.

I think Activision threw Shrek Super Slam onto the DS simply for the sake of a complete cross-platform release. When a mediocre console brawler is distilled down to a portable version, it loses a great deal in translation and the multiplayer has to make up for it. The multi-card play is really the final nail in the coffin for Shrek Super Slam DS. It might have fit into the “passing distraction” category if it supported DS download multiplayer, but without it Shrek Super Slam DS is easily forgettable.
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