Shrek the 3rd Review
Written : Thursday, November 01, 2007
By: Alan Pettit (GT: The Pants Party)
Based on the highly successful movie franchise, Shrek the Third offers up a beat-em-up action/adventure with humor suitable for all ages. Covering the third movie in the series, out this past summer, the story mostly follows Shrek, Donkey and Puss-in-Boots as they search for the true king of Far Far Away, Arthur (aka King Arthur). The evil Prince Charming however feels the throne should be his and sets out to see Shrek fail, employing thugs and even the evil Hook (aka Captain Hook from Peter Pan) to thwart Shrek's adventure. Running simultaneous to this, you can also play as both Shrek's wife Fiona and the fabled Sleeping Beauty as they break out of jail and attempt to reunite with Shrek and company. By no means an amazing plot, and without some of the raunchier humor found in the movies, it's really very dull.
While there is some switching of characters, the fighting is almost always the same, though obviously a donkey is going to attack differently than a cat with a sword, but it never actually feels unique at all. Only the special attacks are anything different, Puss using his charm to daze enemies and Sleeping Beauty using hers to make them fight each other, while the rest of the characters just use a more devastating attack as theirs. The finishers are somewhat interesting, though only Shrek has more than two of them at his disposal, and they are completely random, only activated by pressing a button at the prompted time.
This about sums up how fun this game is.
The gameplay is extremely simple. You'll spend most of the game employing a single button to attack and one for jumping, with the occasional special move with the triggers thrown in, and though there are a few other options for fighting, they really aren't necessary. Defeating enemies yields a blue fairy dust that will fill up your special attack gauge, which every character can use. When completely filled, only Shrek and Fiona have the option to use Ogre Power (obviously, being the only two ogres in the game), using a Bullet Time effect to slow the action down and give you a leg up on the enemy. Being a family game, getting through the story-mode is no challenge, but the added option of Grimm difficulty actually does get hairy at a few points in the game, providing a slight challenge. Along with the basic storyline, each level offers a number of quests to complete for bonus rewards and money to spend on costumes, commentaries and other goodies in the shop, as well as two new difficulties (Charming and Grimm).
The game's camera is by far the worst part of the game. At times you will be jumping forward, then the camera will decide to switch in front of you and if you don't quickly change from pressing forward on the thumbstick to backward, you'll just turn mid-air and head back in the direction you came from. Other times you will be running around a corner, but the camera will not follow, leaving you completely lost in the unknown until you find the magic spot that makes the camera move. This is a very common flaw in the platforming genre and this game is no exception.
The sound is almost as bad as the camera. There is no voice acting from the actors in the movie, and while the impersonators come close, it's not close enough to really fool anyone. It is a constant annoyance to be reminded of it throughout the game. Along with that, even generic sound effects that have been used in hundreds of games feel out of place, as if Activision just gave this project to their interns and released it without even testing it.
The graphics come in third in the "horrible things about Shrek the 3rd" contest, but they aren't far behind. The characters sometimes look like a Sega Genesis port to the 360, especially when the camera backs up and the action becomes small, and always in the character animation of Puss-in-Boots. Never before have I seen something that awful on the 360. His motions are consistently jerky; he looks more like he's waddling, than running. Even during the cut-scenes it feels like this is hardly a next-gen game. I know we can't expect much from a rushed movie-based kids game, but at this point you'd think they would have some building blocks from other games they have published.
Amazing next-gen graphics! Ok, not really.
The achievements are a decent mix of gameplay related (using special moves) to collection rewards (finding hidden coloring pages), with the always dreaded "beat the game on X" difficulty on there twice, which do not stack. In this case, you need to play the game at least twice (on Grimm and Charming), neither of which are available from the beginning. However, you can play a few levels on Normal until you have earned enough money to buy the other difficulties, then just start over.
Even for a kids game, if you're playing simply to play the game, it runs pretty short. A play through Normal will take a mere 3-4 hours to complete, especially if you're ignoring the mini-quests on each level. Going for the 100% completion will most likely only take you double that if you've got a guide for the coloring pages and collection quests, a little longer if you're playing fresh. There is a section of multiplayer mini-games, but they are overall very boring and easy, though kids will no doubt enjoy them due to the simple controls and familiar characters. For the older crowd (aka the achievement crowd) this one will be a labored play and you will no doubt be much relieved to finish it.
The voice acting is alright, but the lack of the actual actors hurt greatly. The musical number with Hook was actually very enjoyable. Overall simple sound effects and subtle background music, focusing more on the storyline than anything, but all very sub-par.
The graphics are severely lacking, and the camera system is constantly moving too much or stuck in the wrong place, making some parts of the game very frustrating.
With a thorough introduction stage and overall simple gameplay to begin with, anyone can pick up and go with this one. The camera hinders the play along the way, but other than that its very simple.
The humor from the movies is toned down a bit, feeling more aimed at just a children audience, whereas the movies seem to use a lot of double-meaning to keep the older audiences interested, while the younger audiences get a laugh without realizing something dirty just happened. For a beat-em-up/action/adventure game based on a movie, you're basically getting what you'd expect.
Finding all the mugs and other collect missions will take two or more plays through the game, but you are forced to play through on both the hardest and easiest setting anyway, so it doesn't feel that forced. If you buy Grimm difficulty right away and play that, then go back on Charming, you shouldn't have any trouble with a 1,000 in this one.
While the overall experience is pleasant, some of the odd quirks with the camera and game mechanics, as well as the overall lackluster production make this a less than ideal Shrek game and especially a less than ideal 360 game. Recommended for children and achievement whores only!