Every summer we are bombarded with a slew of movie-to-game translations of the summer’s biggest blockbusters. This year is certainly no different with Activision leading the charge with titles like, Spider-Man 3, and of course our subject of the hour, Shrek The Third. Granted when most gamers hear the words “licensed game” they shudder though, the current track record from the folks at Activision is relatively solid. With the latest iteration in this long-running series, the duties for the DS version have been handed over to famed developer Vicarious Visions with surprisingly positive results.
Shrek The Third, for the Nintendo DS, loosely follows the plot line of the movie of the same title. You take control of several characters from the land of Far Far Away such as Shrek, Puss N Boots, and everyone’s favorite Donkey, as they set out to find the rightful heir to the throne. While this more or less serves simply as a backdrop to the main quest, it is nice to see the game fully utilize the license.
At its core Shrek The Third, is a straight ahead platformer with plenty of buddy elements thrown into the mix. You can switch between different characters on the fly, even if they are located on completely different sides of the world. This is crucial as each character possesses a special ability that is imperative to passing certain sections of the game. Only by using all of them will you be able to solve the puzzles and obstacles scattered throughout the land of Far Far Away.
Vicarious Visions has also done an excellent job of using the DS’s special features without making them feel forced or gimmicky. All character movement is done via the d-pad while almost everything else is handled via the touch screen. You can link your characters by simply combining their portraits on the touch screen. Combat is also handled entirely via the bottom panel. This works similarly to last year’s X-Men game for the DS, but with much better results.
You simply target an enemy with your stylus, then perform a simple motion to initiate an attack. Unlike the aforementioned mutant game Shrek The Third’s combat system is much more streamlined and user-friendly making for a much more enjoyable experience. While all of the characters do have signature moves, all of the motions are pretty much the same except with different animations.
Each level is broken down into three smaller sections and one boss fight. Throughout each level, you will be faced with various puzzles that require you to use all of your team to accomplish. These can range from simplistic tasks, such as opening a gate, to more complicated ones. For the most part, this mechanic works flawlessly thanks to the intuitive control scheme, but there are times when AI partners will get hung up requiring you to restart the level for no reason other than poor programming.
Aside from the simple touching aspects of the game you can also cast magic spells by pressing the left and right triggers. There are even certain actions that can be performed by blowing into the DS’ microphone, which is really cool. With so much onscreen action you might fear that the heads up display would somehow distort your view, but I assure you it is well out of sight and never interferes with the game play.
For a DS title, Shrek The Third is also very easy on the eyes. Vicarious has done an amazing job of rendering a fluid 3D world that is chock full of vibrant colors and interesting characters. The three-dimensional backdrops with two-dimensional game play, work like a charm here creating a sense of scale that few other DS titles have managed to convey. The animations are also top-notch with some truly hilarious idle animations; overall, the developers have done an amazing job in bringing this world to life on Nintendo’s handheld.
If the single player isn’t enough to entice you for very long there is also a robust multi-player component that even supports single-pak play. There are a total of six mini-games that can be enjoyed with up to three other players. These include Castle Attack, Catacombs Lead, Frog Herder, Shrekleboard, Ships Ahoy, and Shooting Gallery. All of which are varied and a surprisingly fun addition to the overall experience.
With a simple and intuitive control scheme, Shrek The Third delivers a solid experience for young and old gamers alike. The mix of old school 2D platforming action against a 3D backdrop, makes for an incredibly entertaining game for just about everyone. Couple this with the amazingly crisp and colorful visuals and you have a licensed game that will finally be deserving of its sales. If you are a fan of platformers and can’t wait for the next big thing, give Shrek a try; I guarantee you will find something to enjoy.