Will it drive you wild or just crazy?
© 2010 Gav Ross
Video games that tie into major film releases targeted at kids are a dime-a-dozen, but a video game aimed at kids based on a surreal movie not necessarily aimed at kids? Now things get interesting!
One wonders what the development team at Washington’s Griptonite Games must have thought when Warner Bros. handed them some rough art design sketches and a brief story synopsis for the upcoming film adaption by director Spike Jonze.
After all, a game that has a 9-year old boy arguing with his mother, running away from home and then standing around on a bizarre island surrounded by large, meandering beasts that spend their time philosophising about their existence doesn’t make for engaging gameplay.
So, essentially, Where The Wild Things Are: The Videogame delivers an experience based on a template of all dull platformers that came before it with enough brief cut-scenes and interaction with the Wild Things themselves to keep the player from falling asleep completely.
Little Max arrives at the island with no backstory whatsoever and is suddenly the King of these creatures without much fuss. After all, he does already have a crown and seems to find a sceptre sitting near a log when he comes ashore.
So now what needs to be introduced to give Max and his new friends something to do? Conflict!
It appears that the island is quite suddenly overrun by a black goo that spurts up from the ground and attempts to claim the lives of Max and his hefty (and probably smelly) friends. This messy black molasses must be stopped at all costs, of course, and it is up to Max to save the day.
One Level, then another, & another . . .
Rather than a change-up of these gameplay elements, the designers have chosen just to up the ante and make each jump and climb slightly more difficult in the later levels.
Combat is mainly of the hack-and-slash variety, or, to be more precise, the player just needs to push the ‘X’ button over and over again and perform no real combos.
This lack of combat variety is complimented by the only other type of enemy apart from the goo. If you thought there were a lot of flying bugs in The Bee Movie Game then you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Wasps are the constant bane of Max’s existence as he traverses through the island landscapes and, just so no further enemies need to be designed, the wasps come in a myriad of colours that all do different nasty things to the little boy’s health bar. By the final level you’ll have had enough of wasps and hives, that’s for certain.
Levels vary from jungle environments with cliffs to…uh…more jungle environments with cliffs. There’s the odd cave thrown in for good measure but don’t expect much diversity in this area either.
Without actually spoiling anything, the culmination of the game takes place in space. That’s right – space. If the introduction of an evil black goo into the Where The Wild Things Are universe wasn’t bad enough, adding outer space to the equation tips the scales from ‘slightly ridiculous’ to ‘downright ludicrous’.
Unimaginative . . . or not?
It doesn’t outstay its welcome (can be finished in 5-6 hours max) and it does possess a soft, dreamy feel that faithfully replicates the mood of the film and its characters.
The same cannot be said about the voice acting. This is one of those games where sound-alike stand-ins are used, so basically you have someone sounding slightly like James Gandolfini speaking the cut-scene parts of Carol, but it’s blindly obvious it isn’t him.
This cheapens the ‘tie-in’ experience a great deal but, really, it isn’t a surprise popular actors wouldn’t lend their time to a game like this.
In terms of replayability, there’s no reason to go back and play any level ever again apart from that bane of achievement hunters’ existence – collectables. This entire game is, at its core, a collect-a-ton as there aren’t just a few things to collect throughout the journey – there are literally hundreds.
Thankfully, each collectable is in a fairly obvious spot and the player doesn’t need to go too far out of their way to find anything, but it’s still an annoying facet of the game if you’re a completionist.
It’s likely to be forgotten and played by few, but Where The Wild Things Are remains an intriguing release based solely on the fact that it demonstrates how far a movie game can distance itself from its source material.
© 2010 Gav Ross
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