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Shrek Super Slam

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Shaba Games
Media: GCD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Fighting/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

Shrek Super Slam takes those 3D characters that we have all come to know and love from Shrek 2 and puts them in an arena for an all out melee battle.

Visually, Super Slam does a great job of duplicating the characters and environments from the movies. Big names like Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Prince Charming and Puss in Boots all come off looking just like their silver-screen counterparts. The other, lesser characters either look like they did in their brief cameos (like Little Red Riding Hood) or look like what you would expect if they didn't actually show up in the movies (like Humpty Dumpty). Each character has several moves, and all of the action-packed animation seems to be really smooth and clean.

The surroundings also go a long way in representing the films. You will fight in classic locations like the Dragon's Castle or the streets of Far, Far Away as well as new arenas like a dojo or in a pub. All of these areas are not only large and provide plenty of room for maneuvering, but they typically have ledges or overhangs that you can jump onto, highly destructible environments and plenty of hidden dangers.

As for the audio aspect of Shrek Super Slam, the voice work during the cut-scenes is pretty well executed. Though this game doesn't use the big names from the movies, Super Slam's cast does a great job of imitating the movie-actors. While in a battle, the characters don't say much, which is a solid alternative to them speaking too much and hearing the same lines over and over again. Instead, you ears get treated to some energetic music and a fairly diverse variety of bangs, booms and bashes while the characters on the screen pummel each other.


Gameplay:

When Donkey and Dragon invite the rest of the gang to the castle to watch a little TV (err... Magic Mirror), they find the kids (the Dronkeys, that is) causing a ruckus (the keen eye might even notice a reference to a classic Activision game) and the gang need to get the little tykes to sleep before they can enjoy the evening. So now the Shrek gang decide that it's time to tell the flying, fire-breathing donkeys a story to get them to sleep.

This is how the Story Mode of Shrek Super Slam starts off. Each fight is part of an overall story ... well, okay there doesn't seem to be one story, just a bunch of scenes that lead to a fight. The only real story is the others telling the short adventures. One scene will have an outlaw Puss in Boots facing off against the sheriff Gingerbread Man in the wild west, while another one will pit Donkey against Prince Charming in a completely different scenario. Story Mode allows you to unlock new outfits for your available characters.

So how do you unlock new characters? That's what Mega Challenges Mode is for. Here you will move a game-piece across a large board modeled to look like Far, Far Away and its surrounding environment. You will move your Shrek token from location to location trying to overcome challenges and earn Mega Points. These challenges range from winning a tournament to keeping objects away from other players to successfully landing a certain number of slams and so on. This is where the game's variety lies, and to me, this mode was more fun that its Story. I got a wider range of challenges and pretty much each fight was something different.

The last mode of interest is Melee Mode. Here you and three of your friends will be able to use your unlocked characters and go head-to-head in an all-out brawl.

The fights themselves (no matter which mode you are in) seem to fit the standard melee, cookie-cutter format. You will find yourself in an open arena with various levels of height while various environmental hazards try to hurt anything that comes near them. Where Super Slam stands apart is in its destructible environments and its unusual health bar (or lack there of) system.

Since every hit you land increases a power meter, when it fills up and you activate your character's Slam Mode, you will be able to send your enemies flying across the screen. Typically they will hit a wall, part of a building or some other obstacle and that object will crumble. From what I could tell, pretty much every part of the environment was destructible (well... not the ground).

And as for the health system, you won't find your characters getting knocked out and regenerating with a full bar of health, with the winner being the fighter with the most KO's in the timeout (like other melee games). Instead, the game just keeps track of how much damage each fighter has inflicted and the one with the most has a crown icon at the base of his/hers/its feet. When the clock runs out, whoever has the crown is king. This is an interesting way to handle things. Not only does it help to keep the less confidant younger-gamer's hopes up (since they aren't getting KO'ed every time they turn around), but it can cause one gamer to go all out when time is running down in hopes of taking the crown. The other aspect of this feature that makes it notable is the fact that just because you have the crown, you don't really know what kind of lead you have. This will keep everybody (even if you are in the lead) trying to land as many hits as possible and not let anyone get too over confidant and lazy.


Difficulty:

Shrek Super Slam's difficulty can get somewhat hit or miss sometimes. In the Story Mode, you should be able to handle most of the enemies that get thrown at you. There were only a few times when I got whipped really badly. But even though you should be able to progress through these various misadventures pretty quickly, the difficulty really ramps up when you try to take on the Mega Mission mode.

At first, I thought this mode was just as simple as the other. But as I progressed, I found several missions that were nearly impossible to get past, only to be followed by another series of easy-to-win challenges. Though I could go back and play any of the challenges again, I found I never really wanted to. Either the mission was too hard for me to find enjoyable or too easy for me to feel like it was worth my time.


Game Mechanics:

Shrek Super Slam's controls are easy to pick up and all characters have the same basic attack setup. The difference comes in when you go to execute one of the character-specific moves.

Each fighter has an Attack Tree associated with him/her/it. You get to view this tree while your arena loads. This tree shows you what buttons you want to press to execute various moves. For instance, all trees start off with the A button, and then you can hit either the A or B button. Some characters might have only one combo that he/she/it can execute if you hit the B button (hit it a second time for some sort of aerial attack), while another might allow you to hit the A after the B and perform some sort of strong punching attack.

These different combo trees are what make it possible for you to find a character that fits your style. Though button mashing will get you far with pretty much any of the characters, if you really want to deal out some damage -- learn these simple attacks.

Shrek Super Slam isn't for everybody, but fans of melee games like TMNT: Mutant Melee will find enjoyment in the no-holds-barred, arena-based combat.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Sony PlayStation 2 Crash Tag Team Racing Microsoft Xbox Greg Hastings\' Tournament Paintball Max\'d

 
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