Written : Wednesday, July 23, 2008
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Welcome back to movie tie-in 101. The first and most important rule is to make sure your game appeals to old and young alike, as the best family games are ones that everyone can sit down and enjoy. Recent examples such as Lego Indiana Jones show that, if done right, a so-called "kid’s title" can dominate the retail charts. With WALL-E storming up the cinema charts all over the globe, a game was somewhat inevitable though it’s another matter whether or not it turns out to be any good. Lately it seems that such games are just another piece of merchandise and don’t have the production values and dedication that a lot of triple-A titles are blessed with. By no means am I expecting WALL-E to outshine GTA but that’s not to say it can’t be entertaining in its own right. Here’s hoping.
Developed by THQ’s in-house team at Heavy Iron Studios you’d expect them to know how to handle a Pixar film by now since they’ve been involved with The Incredibles and Ratatouille prior to this. Though considering the less-than-stellar reviews the latter received upon its 360 debut then it’s with no small measure of trepidation that I approached this game. In saying that, Ratatouille did have its moments of enjoyment and if those could be highlighted and worked upon then WALL-E might yet have a chance to shine. It’s also a good sign that the movie has received almost universal praise too, giving me greater hope than ever that a good game is just around the corner.
MTV Cribs: Last Robot on Earth edition.
I suppose a bit of story isn’t going to be amiss so make sure you’re sitting comfortably children and then I’ll begin. WALL-E is basically a cleaning robot that were dumped (along with thousands of others like him) on Earth, in a bid to clean it up so that humanity could return to live there once more. However, the project failed and every other robot soon began to malfunction under the strain of so much garbage. 700 years later and our little hero has gradually become sentient due to his time alone and is still busily tidying the planet. Enter EVE, a scout from one of humanity's many ships, who has come to Earth to search for plant life in the hope that it has become fertile again. The two meet up after WALL-E discovers and nurtures a living plant, thus beginning their friendship and quest to get humanity back on its feet – a task not helped by their growing waistlines.
As you would expect with what is fundamentally a family title, everything is relatively straightforward. Throughout the game you control both WALL-E and the object of his affections EVE in a bid to get humanity back to Earth. The WALL-E sections are basically a platforming affair with you having to navigate through levels and solve puzzles. Sometimes EVE will be on hand to lend a friendly blaster and help carry WALL-E over the more death defying leaps. It’s all pretty bog standard really and most of the puzzles revolve around the use of a variety of junk blocks that have different properties, the heavier ones can weigh down buttons, lighter ones can be thrown further to hit switches and charged blocks can explode objects and power up pylons to help you advance. The puzzles are easy to navigate and you’ll never find yourself wondering what to do, the main problem really is the fact that the same puzzles are just repeated throughout the whole game. Once you’ve played level one though, you’ve seen pretty much everything the game has to offer. At one point WALL-E does get a hold of a blaster and that stretches the fun a little further but the enemies are so predictable and weak that the novelty soon wears thin.
WALL-E’s date wasn't impressed with the décor.
Step into the proverbial shoes of EVE and the game takes a more action packed twist as you are required to speed through timed tunnel runs and blast foes out of your path. Again though, the levels are all too similar, and even with a few mini-games dotted around the levels you never feel that you’re doing anything new once that first section has been overcome. The mini-games themselves are also something of a letdown as they are surprisingly short and easy, the only frustration comes in the ones that require you to find and scan a number of items as they can be deceptively hard to pick out among the scenery. It’ll only bug you for a few minutes but it’s a pain nonetheless. The EVE sections are also home to most of the game's graphical nastiness as if you hit the tunnel wall too much it’s a first class ticket to glitch land with the walls disappearing completely as you struggle to figure out exactly where you are and what happened. The targeting is also a bit off too, as WALL-E can lock onto nearby targets but EVE strangely lacks this same gift and trying to precision aim with her soon becomes a major chore.
On that note it’s worth pointing out what a disappointment the graphics are in general. I know they are never going to come up to the high standard present in the film but it’s so much of a come down that it’s painfully obvious. The cut-scenes look especially poor next to their illustrious movie cousin and it wouldn’t have hurt to have taken a few clips from the film and put them in there to buff things up a bit. The backdrops are pretty flat and bland, especially once you enter the Axiom, as they soon start to look very much alike. Even the main characters could do with a bit of spit and polish as they look rough around the edges (I realise the irony in WALL-E’S case). The voice work is pretty much non-existent, but that’s not really a criticism as it copies the film perfectly and the few cute noises that do emanate from our heroes are spot on as are the human and villain characters. However, while the film can rely on expression and movement to convey its message the same can’t be said here as you hardly see any interaction except for during the cut-scenes.
WANTED – better backdrops, good money paid.
The achievements on offer are a fairly generic bunch, with most of them being variations on the same theme. Each level has a unique collectible to find, each level needs to be beaten without dying, each type of garbage cube needs making a number of times and so on. While all of the levels can be beaten extremely quickly it can be a pain to do so without death, especially on some of the jumping sections, though it’s not likely to prove that challenging for most. Getting a full 1,000 points on this game is simply a matter of playing through it and then re-visiting a couple of earlier levels to find anything you miss, so about six or seven hours should see you clean up. With such a short running time, this game has strayed deep into rental territory.
WALL-E the film is an impressive and fun experience but the game equivalent is sadly lacking in nearly every area. Even the argument that this is a game aimed at children falls short as there are plenty of family games that do a better job. The levels are extremely short and you’ll be able to blitz through them in about ten or fifteen minutes which isn’t much when there are only nine levels on offer. The action and puzzles soon get repetitive and you’ll find yourself wishing you’d watched the film instead as there is just no freedom here or expansion on the story. This game is not terrible by any means, and you may find yourself having a few giggles along the way but it’s basically just an interactive Pixar movie (with worse graphics than the original) and that just doesn’t cut it.
Sticks pretty close to the film but the lack of concrete vocal parts leaves me cold, it may work in the movie but in the game it feels like you’re stuck in a vacuum with no sound at all.
Compare the graphics here with those in the film itself and tell me you’re not disappointed. The characters look flat and the backgrounds are fairly drab with nothing much going on. It’s not hideous but it certainly isn’t Pixar.
A short and fairly repetitive game that may entertain the youngsters for a few hours but even they will have little trouble polishing this off in double quick time. With no real reason to replay the game it would probably just be easier to watch the film again instead.
A middle-of-the road kids title that doesn’t have enough challenge or appeal to lure in older gamers, the story is fun enough but all too brief.
A simple set of challenges that should pose few problems for experienced gamers, you may have to replay a couple of levels to grab all the collectibles and complete them without losing all of your health but a full 1,000 should be only a few hours away.
This game offers a few fun moments but is just too short to justify much more than a rental. The kids will soon tire of it too as it doesn’t have the charm or longevity of similar titles like Lego Star Wars or even Ratatouille. It’s a shame as the film is a welcome Pixar treat and this game just doesn’t do it justice.