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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Griptonite Games
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 (2 - 15 Single Card Download Play)
Genre: Platformer (3D)/ Adventure/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Although the polygonal models of your favorite "wild" animals and their enemies have been dumbed down a bit for the Nintendo DS, Activision's Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa still looks great on the small screen. The star animals have a decent representation to their big-screen counterparts, and their animations, although basic, work well for this type of platforming game.

The environments look decent as well. Although each level is quite linear in nature, all of the objects look as they should and are easily described as you see them, unlike some other DS titles that I have played. Whether it be the terrain, the foliage, or the miscellaneous objects that populate the world, all environmental elements have a quality to them consistent with the visual style of the films.

The audio of the DS is sometimes pretty lame, and voiceovers are usually non-existent. This is not the case with Escape 2 Africa. The music and sound fx both sound great and will keep you interested in the game level-in and level-out. What impressed me most, however, is that the cut-scenes featured full voice dialogue instead of the DS's typical read-a-thon text. Unfortunately, the star voices don't return for the videogame, but I was pleasantly surprised nonetheless. In fact, I had to look it up to know if the real actors voiced this game because they sounded remarkably close to the originals at times.


Another movie; another game tie-in. It's hard to believe, isn't it? Well, I have some news for you, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa's portable version is a blast to play and would stand on its own even without its licensed characters. The meat of the game comes from a single-player adventure game, and the platformer that lies within also does well on its own.

Sure, the adventure involving Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, Melman the Giraffe, and Marty the Zebra is very linear in nature, but it plays very well. As you work your way through each level, you will have to do typical platforming tasks such as retrieving items scattered around and fight your way past some "bosses." One such boss cracks me up to this day, partly because of the silliness, but also because of the character dialogue at the time. At one point, you'll have to take on an old lady who swings her purse at you somewhere in the middle of nowhere and your playable character comments by wondering "how she got way out here." Okay, it's hard to describe on paper, but there are other humorous moments in the game as well, adding a bit more enjoyability into an already great game.

Each level will have you controlling a different character from the four main stars, and each has his or her own platforming and fighting styles. These styles are the basis for each level as well, which shows that the developers over at Griptonite Games took care in the layout of each environment. You'll also have the opportunity to play some bonus levels, including those with the penguins. One particular bonus game style was my favorite because it plays out as a puzzle game, and can be described as being most similar to a game like Vikings or, to a lesser extent, Lemmings. Each penguin has his own ability, and you had to work through the level by swapping characters and allowing them to pull switches, climb ladders, and dig holes in an effort to get all of the penguins to the end, past the obstacles blocking their paths.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa also allows for some multiplayer mini-games to play through using a single game cartridge. You will be able to battle through a tournament in such events as dancing, soccer, and racing, among others.


While there are occasionally spots of difficulty that present themselves during the single player adventure, for the most part, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is not all that hard. It is possible that the youngest of children may have some troubles with some of the jumping, especially the jumps that require you to jump and balance on posts with Gloria the Hippo (yes, which is a sight for sore eyes!). However, most of the game is very playable at any age and is fun for all, including older gamers that want entertaining play in terms of both gameplay and humor.

Essentially, defeating enemies is nothing more than a button-masher, no matter which character you happen to be playing as. If you are controlling the new character, Moto Moto (another Hippo), for example, you can use your power to bash through enemies, or even butt-bounce them to knock them over when you feel overwhelmed by opponents. All of the characters do have special abilities as well, so each level is geared toward the currently playable character. This is especially noticeable with Marty the Zebra's long jumping abilities.

The bonus levels range from super-easy to a bit more complex. For example, one of the bonuses involves playing some pinball, using bananas as flippers. The difficulty here is that the ball doesn't bounce nicely, so using your previous pinball knowledge has no bearing on the game. However, this pinball game is still easy enough. The penguin levels, on the other hand, are a bit trickier. Here, you need to guide all of your penguin friends to the end, with each using his skill for the betterment of the team. A lot of thinking (and some guesswork) are required, and the levels are timed, making them fun to play again since the first time through is often a bit frustrating.

Game Mechanics:

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa plays very easy in terms of controls as well. The game uses the standard controls for most of its efforts, and the buttons are perfectly natural to perform and are far from complicated. You can also use the touch screen for certain functions, including the bonus and mini-games. The most notable for in-game control, however, is that you can launch melons at the baddies with the flick of the stylus. In fact, while this game does use the controls well, it doesn't take as much advantage of the touch screen as I had hoped. The button combinations for jumping, attacking, and moving work flawlessly though.

While this title is quite linear in nature for most of the single player adventure, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is still a great game with surprisingly superb audio, which makes for an outstanding presentation. The main characters from this second film in the series arrive on the small screen of the Nintendo DS in a big way. It is very entertaining to play as Alex, Gloria, Marty, and Melman, as well as newcomer Moto Moto and the ever-entertaining penguins. Anyone who happens to be a fan of the films will certainly enjoy Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa on the DS, but it is especially geared toward adolescent children more than any other age group. Older kids will likely find most of the game too easy, but will still find the penguin levels a challenge, while younger children may need help getting through these bonus stages altogether. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa has done many good things, and is worth a rent, if not a purchase.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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