“Your mom goes to college” “I like your sleeves, they’re real big” Most people have one of two reactions to quotes like these. One reaction is to chuckle to themselves and nod approvingly your direction, the other is to roll their eyes and quickly navigate to the other side of the room. However, just in case you’re one of the three people who haven’t seen “Napoleon Dynamite”, shame on you. This quirky, clever, and completely random comedy became a national obsession upon it’s release in 2004, and introduced phrases like these into the common vocabulary. However, like most huge fads, the sheen has faded and now quoting the film is more likely to make you look sad than garner huge laughs. That hasn’t stopped Crave Entertainment from releasing Napoleon Dynamite: The Game. Unfortunately, this collection of average minigames and overused sound bites is likely to be a disappointment to even the most diehard Dynamite fan.
Napoleon Dynamite: The Game revolves around Napoleon utilizing his various skills (you know…Nunchuck Skills, Bow Hunting skills….I know, I know….I’ll stop) to find Tina the Llama and return her to the backyard. It plays out through around 30 minigames, and several paper-doll style cut scenes. Unfortunately, these cut scenes are entirely text based as none of the cast recorded new lines for the title. The style of the graphics fits well with the license, and with the addition of a voice acted script may have actually been quite an enjoyable diversion. However as is it acts mostly as a loose glue to tie the games together and an excuse for your PSP to chug through some unfortunate load times.
The games themselves are a mixed bag of decent to sub par minigames. Several of them make good use of both the license and mechanics to create an enjoyable, albeit highly derivative experience. One game finds Napoleon and his Uncle Rico in a competition to see who can throw a football the farthest. The mechanic plays out in similar fashion to the “Cat Launcher” flash game available on the internet, only with the addition of the ability to bounce the ball by pressing the X button at a specific time. There is also a minigame involving putting together the Time Machine, which works like a simple yet fun jigsaw puzzle.
However, most of the rest of the games involve reusing the same mechanics over and over again in a different setting. The football game shares a mechanic with a bow and arrow game, there are several variations on horizontal shooters, there’s even a DDR style dance minigame that’s repeated throughout the various “stages”. Unfortunately any enjoyment of it is tempered by a horribly broken timing mechanic that quickly degenerated into my tapping the correct button over and over again as the scoring zone approached rather than trying to time it correctly. Overall there’s only a few games here worth trying, and they will quickly become tiring.
Voice acting is a very important part of any licensed title, and unfortunately there is none to speak of in ND: The Game. The few voices in the game are sound clips from the movie, and they are horribly overused and not usually all that applicable in the situation. As mentioned above, some newly recorded dialogue featuring the original cast would have helped this title immensely, and at least made the mostly uninteresting cut scenes worth sitting through.
The ND universe would probably lend itself very well to an adventure style platformer with some shooting/fighting elements. As it stands, rather than a true extension of the franchise this title feels like a random collection of minigames with the license tacked on as an afterthought. In the end, I can’t recommend this title to anyone but the hardest of the hardcore ND fans. Anyone else would probably have more fun taking their bike off a sweet jump….I’m sorry, I’m done now.