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The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Tipton Caper

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Buena Vista
Developer: A2M
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

I'm so old school that I can remember the first title I played from the development team that created this game, A2M. Jersey Devil was the game, all the way back to 1998. It was a good effort with lots of creative visual ideas, an original character and solid gameplay. The Suite Life of Zach & Cody: Tipton Caper may not be as much of a visual tour de force as Jersey Devil, but it has some good creative gameplay and scans well on the small screen. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has produced several games worth playing, with the DS version (Tipton Trouble) raising a fairly high bar. A betting man might say that this Game Boy Advance version would be hard pressed to keep up, but this version is excellent.

The real estate that allowed for some easy item switching on the DS just isn't present for the GBA. Without introducing lots of sub-menus or cluttering up the screen, switching from character to character is done with a few button presses. Items on screen are clearly identified visually as belonging to one brother or another. My only complaint on the design of Tipton Caper is that different areas on the game are too similar and lack distinct landmarks. There are neat gameplay devices that have the brothers splitting up and it can be hard to move around when one screen looks just like two or three others. The music isn't realized as well in this version, which is simply the GBA capability compared to the DS. Even so, there are some nice, simple tunes that play through levels and sound effects for different items and tools the boys use.


Gameplay:

The cooperative gameplay that the princely pair are so naturally made for comes to the GBA in fine form. If there is trouble and mischief brewing, these two will find it. The game is relatively unadorned - you just jump in and start playing and the learning is delivered through experience, which is the best way. You'll get the hang of switching from boy to boy and you'll also learn each boy's strength in solving puzzles and exploring. There are a lot of item collection puzzles that figure into gameplay and there is not a lot of action. Tipton Caper is often more about sleuthing and treasure hunting than it is about projectiles. Parents will welcome the change; while I would not go so far as to say this is edutainment, it comes pretty close.

The story is developed as you explore the many areas of the hotel. Each boy works alone to solve certain puzzles. Zack is a little more athletic and will be the one climbing, moving and throwing things to trigger events. Cody is more of the smart guy who uses gadgets and wits to solve puzzles. Before anybody writes Cody off as the boring one, remember he has a super-powered vacuum cleaner. We're not talking Roomba here, buddy! This thing is like the "Knight Rider" of vacuums... Faced with puzzles, the boys can work separate or team up if necessary. Even working apart, there are puzzles that will require both boys to contribute. I like that many of the combo puzzles are contextual. After you learn to push things around a room, you find that bigger objects can be moved by both boys. You don't have to do anything fancy to make this happen; when you push on a big object, the boys split up to work as a team.

Because this is GBA material there aren't a load of extras, multiplayer or special options tucked away in the cart. You get a nice game that will while away several hours and provide fun with characters you love from the television show. Disney holds onto good Rep and A2M chalks up another nicely executed title for the kids.


Difficulty:

The Suite Life of Zach and Cody: Tipton Caper is low on the difficulty scale for older gamers. The mechanics of solving puzzles in each level can be described as a combination of collecting items and using the boys' abilities strategically. There are definitely times when younger players may be "stuck" and not know how to trigger certain events. The easiest way to move around is to switch back and forth between boys and see if one has the skill required to obtain a special item or overcome an obstacle. Without a help or hint, I can imagine young gamers getting frustrated, but the mechanics of Tipton Caper are simple enough to keep frustration at bay. Once you realize that any puzzle is going to be solved by one of the boys or both together, the options become rather simple.

Game Mechanics:

The two-button layout of the GBA means that nothing gets difficult to manage during a game. The worst I can say is that not having two distinct buttons for each boy makes things harder. Is it the A button that does this for Cody or for Zack? At first, you have to remember who does what plus the corresponding key, but this gets easier over time. Switching is as easy as hitting a shoulder button, so that doesn't take much gray matter. During the game, there is little need to remember a lot of button combos. Only when the boys get set back do you have to switch and start experimenting. There are different controls for two special "mini-games" that are even more intuitive; one is a racing game that requires just movement control and a button to accelerate. The other mini-game involves dressing as a grown-up and standing on the other boy's shoulders to sneak through guarded areas. There is a balance component to this that again just requires good control over movement.

Keeping it simple is the name of the game here. The model works nicely and still manages to convey the spirit of the characters. There is a sense of fun that comes across in Tipton Caper and kids who like the show will be very happy with how their characters are brought to the GBA. For younger or older kids, there may be some disconnect, but the vast majority of kids watching the show will enjoy playing the game. To think that it all started with a devil from Jersey...


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Sony PlayStation Portable Power Stone Collection Sony PlayStation Portable Battlezone

 
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