Despicable Me: The Game Review
It seemed that many enjoyed the movie, so perhaps it stands to reason that fans would be interested in the interactive adventure. Developed by Monkey Bar Games, Despicable Me: The Game puts a heavy emphasis on platforming and puzzles, which may or may not prove to be too daunting for the targeted demographic. It’s one of those titles that’s loaded with a lot of good ideas but trips and stumbles due to some balance issues, mechanical screw-ups, and extremely loose control. It’s not unplayable and there are plenty of redeeming elements, but the player will be forced to deal with continuous inconsistencies if he or she wishes to complete the quest. On the plus side, there is a fair amount of decent humor – as well there should be – and we appreciate any game that tests the brain in some way. It’s just that it feels unrefined and as a result, the whole things gets a little frustrating.
If you’re looking for top-notch PS2 graphics, you’re obviously not familiar with budget games based on movies for kids. Given the low price of admission and the fact that most members of the intended audience won’t care much, we won’t harp on the visual drawbacks. However, when it affects the gameplay, it must be mentioned. For instance, the lack of clarity in the background detail can often make you miss crucial puzzle-solving/platforming aspects; i.e., “oh, there’s a button there,” or “oh, that’s a wall of lasers.” Also, because the camera typically sits a ways back, we never get a chance to see the character detail of the good (yet still despicable) doctor and his adorable minions. Given the presentation, though, we probably don’t want to get too close. There isn’t a huge amount of diversity in the backdrops, either, but then again, at least there aren’t any glaring errors. For what it is, it’s not terrible.
The sound is a little better thanks to some decent and semi-comical voiceover performances, and the sound effects are better than average. For some reason, though, we miss out on most of the great movie soundtrack, so combined with the repetitiveness of the levels, the atmosphere feels a bit bland. The effects really do come through rather well, though, and I liked the little sounds the minions would make. You’ll hear most of the acting in between missions and there’s actually not as much as you think, but the featured voices perform relatively well. The entire sound category lacks the polish we’re used to in next-gen productions but that’s to be expected, and the only setback centers squarely on the boring music selections. For some reason, even films that feature great tracks can’t seem to spawn games with similar musical quality; perhaps it’s just because designers continue to underestimate the importance of an effective soundtrack.
The game starts you off on a quest to nab the necessary parts for your rocket for space travel, so you can perform your “despicable” crime of stealing the moon. You first go through a tutorial that explains the use of your first two weapons (a freeze ray and an air gun), along with how to solve puzzles. Doing so will almost always require the help of your faithful minions; those little yellow guys found in Happy Meals everywhere after the movie released. You have access to a certain number of them for each puzzle, and you can use them in lot of different ways. You can use a single minion, pile them one on top of the other, or create a circular wheel. If you need a bridge, place the tower of minions at the edge of a gap, and blow it over with your air gun. If you need to keep a button pressed, use a single minion, place him on the button, and freeze him. If the button is up above, use the air gun on the minion and he’ll inflate and float upwards. See what I mean? Pretty creative.
Later, you’ll get other tools and of course, the puzzles get increasingly more difficult. This wouldn’t necessarily be an issue, but they really seem to go overboard from the start. Considering the average age of the intended audience, I really think the complexity of these puzzles starts too high; given the large number of possible solutions involving multiple minion formations and tools, it really is quite daunting. It also doesn’t help that the control is definitely far too loose, which makes the platforming elements much too irritating. Your character can jump really high but it’s an awfully “floaty” jump, and it gets even more unreliable when you utilize the air gun to double-jump. There’s also a significant collision detection problem, as he’ll often fall of ledges when he should be firmly on the ground, and he’ll even get stuck in certain places. If you can get used to these eccentricities, though – they’re actually pretty common in games using older technology – you should be able to advance.
The combination of the iffy control and the surprisingly challenging puzzles creates a game that might be too frustrating to play. That being said, I feel inclined to reward the exhibited ingenuity concerning the puzzles and level design, which really is quite impressive for a budget title. It’s too bad that the overall execution is lacking but even so, those who appreciate entertaining challenges and can deal with some shortcomings might have a lot of fun. There’s also a fair amount of balance, in that you won’t be inundated with puzzles or platforming sections over and over again; after completing one type, you’ll likely encounter the other. You’ll probably be a bigger fan of one or the other but at least it breaks up the game a bit. However, you may not like the extreme linearity of the game; you essentially move through each level on a rail, as you can only move left to right and stay on the designated path. Maybe it won’t bother you, but it seemed too simplified to me.
Overall, Despicable Me: The Game doesn’t really pass muster, although I suppose it could be fun for big fans of the movie who are willing to put up with the irksome parts. Although it’s a 3D game, it follows more of a 2D side-scrolling formula and while a little nostalgic, it doesn’t quite work as well as it could’ve. The graphics and sound are barely average, the control is a problem, and the puzzles really do seem to be too tough for the younger generation. There are better games for kids out there, even at the agreeable $19.99 mark.
8/10/2010 Ben Dutka