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Shrek Forever After

Score: 87%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Griptonite Games
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (3D)/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

While movie tie-ins games are expected, good tie-ins are unexpected. Shrek Forever After is one such title. It doesn't aim to revolutionize videogames; it's just trying to be a fun game starring Shrek.

For a DS game, Shrek Forever After looks and sounds great. For a system not known for excelling at 3D visuals, the game puts on a great showing. Character models are simple, but there are not major visual sacrifices, so everyone looks exactly how they should. Levels are a little bland at times, but the design makes up for it.

Much of the music comes straight from the movie, and the pieces that don't fit perfectly within the overall score. Most of the actors don't reprise their roles from the game, though the stand-ins sound good enough to maintain the spirit of the character.


Gameplay:

Shrek Forever After is a linear platformer following the third film's plot. After saving the kingdom twice, Shrek has settled into the life of a married ogre with kids - and he's not happy. Shrek's current situation fits nicely into Rumpelstiltskin's plot to finally claim the kingdom. The fact that Shrek foiled the miniature trickster's last plot (which involved Fiona's castle situation in the original movie), is just gravy.

With all the cunning and honesty of a used car salesman, Rumpelstiltskin manages to get Shrek to sign on for a chance to become a scary ogre for a day. The catch is Shrek needs to give a day to get a day, which Shrek happily agrees to. Of course, Rumpelstiltskin doesn't tell Shrek which day he has to give up... leading to the diminutive liar's rise to the throne.

Gameplay is as straightforward as it can get. It won't impress older players, but for the younger set, it's great and surprisingly fun. I really like the lack of handholding and "obvious" solutions. The game treats younger players with respect rather than approaching every situation as if players have the IQ of a rutabaga. Is it flawless? No. But, the approach finds the right balance of "smart" and "dumb" gameplay.

Most of the game takes place in levels based on situations from the movie loosely tied together by an overworld map. Shrek can revisit cleared areas to uncover new surprises, including mini-games and items for Ogre Artist.

Ogre Artist is a fun concept. Players can select from four themes (scary, cute,...) and drop stickers collected in levels on a background. It reminded me a lot of the old Colorforms play sets when I was little. Ogre Artist is also tied into the DSLite's camera, allowing kids to take pictures and "Shrek" themselves (or, do like I did and have various Shrek characters attack their face...).


Difficulty:

Shrek Forever After is a little harder than I'd like to admit. I had problems, though most can be attributed to technical flaws rather than gameplay issues.

With the exception of a few areas, the camera is always tightly locked behind Shrek. It works when you have nowhere to go but forward, but several levels require a bit of backtracking, either to collect items or solve multi-step puzzles. Clever manipulation of the camera system can help you avoid some deaths, but I think some kids will face a few cheap falling deaths before they figure this out.

Health placement is another sticky issue. I was always able to find health power-ups whenever I didn't need them, but the minute I did they were in short supply. Considering health comes from downed enemies, it can sometimes seem like this is supposed to happen. On the bright side, Shrek can take a lot of damage.


Game Mechanics:

Mechanics are as straightforward as the levels, though there are a few slight twists to the formula. Shrek has a full arsenal of punches, butt-bumps and an enemy-stunning ogre roar, though sometimes those skills aren't enough. Sometimes Shrek needs to get by with a little help from his friends.

At certain parts in every level, Shrek will run into Donkey, Fiona or other characters from the movies. Each encounter opens up a short mini-game players need to complete in order to progress. For instance, Donkey needs to search out and kick items scattered throughout the area. Fiona's game is slightly more interesting and focuses on a rhythm game mechanic. To cut things around her, you need to match the scrolling buttons with buttons on the DS. It's forgiving, but can get harrowing.

Mini-games offer their own unique mechanics, though the premise of each is never fully explained. For instance, Donkey's Waffles mini-game is a Pipe Mania clone where you need to get Donkey to the exit by dropping in tiles. Added challenge comes from building a path that will also allow him to collect the waffles on the stage. It didn't take long to figure the basics out, though it's still confusing without some sort of introduction.

Shrek Forever After does what it sets out to do, present a fun portable game for DS starring Shrek. It won't hold the interest of players outside its target audience, but kids should have a lot of fun with the game, as well as its many additions.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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