Over the years we have seen Shrek in just about every facet of the gaming world. Whether he is burning rubber in a kart racer or getting together with his friends in the latest party game, this big green Ogre is almost as versatile as the infamous Italian plumber himself (we are still waiting on Shrek Soccer). Now with the third movie hitting theatres it was time to create the staple game to go along with it; the question is which route would Activision decide to go this time?
For Shrek the Third the developers have decided to take a simple, yet unexpected approach to the franchise; the beat-em-up. While simple in nature it fits the bill quite nicely when you stop and think about it. For a game that will likely be targeted at younger gamers the simplistic principles of going from point A to point B mashing on a couple of buttons makes more sense than trying to confuse kids with a complicated platformer.
Players can assume control of Shrek and the rest of the cast from the movies and bash their way through extremely linear levels. The controls are as simple as two attacks, heavy and light that are performed by tapping the face buttons or using the waggle motion on Nintendo’s Wii console. In addition you also have a special attack meter at the top that allows you to unleash super moves once filled. Think of these as your typical videogame cliché Matrix moves where time slows down allowing you to deliver maximum damage while your opponents are left defenseless.
For the most part the combat works and works well, however veteran gamers will likely find the linear level design and simplistic combat a bit shallow. From beginning to end Shrek the Third rarely deviates from the norm with the exception of a few mini-games tossed in to mix up the action. There is a simple combo system found within the confines of this basic action title, which will allow you to build up your special meter and unleash the aforementioned super moves, however outside of Shrek and Fiona the supporting cast is limited to one simple animation.
Probably the most puzzling thing that holds this game back though is a complete lack of any type of co-op feature. Being a traditional beat-em-up you would figure that addition of at least two simultaneous players would be a must. Unfortunately this is not the case for Shrek in his third outing. In fact outside of the recreational mini-games this game is a one player affair from beginning to end. Now as you all know I am usually the first one to complain about a lack of online, but when playing games on the Wii or PS2 I can settle for some simple same-screen action, alas Shrek leaves me bewildered with its complete lack of any sort of cooperative mode.
Granted the audience that will likely be spending the most time with this title will really not miss a lack of co-op, it would have been appreciated for parents wanting to join in the fun and help their little ones along. The basic single-player experience will likely entertain you for a couple hours at best, but the younger crowd will likely enjoy it longer simply for the ability to smash and crash with ease as their favorite green menace. Needless to say this game was designed to be a kids version of the popular action titles such as God of War and Devil May Cry and it works, just don’t expect huge amounts of depth and you won’t be disappointed.
The presentation is Shrek is also a mixed bag. The graphics are decent enough, but the animations sometimes have a mind of their own. You will notice frame rate problems during certain character movements while the rest of the game breezes along without a hitch. There are also numerous invisible walls in the most peculiar places that hinder you from passing around simple objects or even down a one foot hill. The camera system is also guilty of being a hassle. It will quickly switch perspective during crucial jumps causing you to take damage when you really didn’t warrant it. After a while it will wear on you which makes the fact that the game is designed to be played in small intervals all the more prominent.
Shrek the Third is a good game that works best for who it is aimed to please. Kids wanting to play as their favorite Ogre this summer will be pleasantly surprised with this above average movie tie-in. While the combat is simple, the presentation unpolished, and a clear lack of co-op hurts the replayability, the core game is still tons of fun to play and gamers looking for a mindless beat-em-up will find plenty to love in Activision’s latest iteration in the Shrek franchise. Now about that Shrek Soccer…