Shrek the ThirdESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
To coincide with the release of the DreamWorks Animation film, Shrek the Third arrives for the Xbox 360. Based on the movie, Shrek embarks on a brand new journey through a mystical, fairy tale world. Donkey, Fiona and Puss in Boots are back and better than ever and in hi-definition. As I followed the development of this game I wondered if it would take advantage of Xbox 360 hardware and deliver a family based game unlike anything we have ever seen before. Well the answer to this question is simple: No. Nevertheless Shrek the Third for the Xbox 360 should not be ignored as it not a bad game at all.
As far as the visuals are concerned I was, for the most part, pleasantly surprised. Granted, nothing is jaw dropping or particularly innovative; however there are many aspects of the game which are worth noting. The following visuals really stood out for me:
- The main characters (i.e. Shrek, Fiona, Puss in Boots and Donkey) look great and exactly like their animated movie counterparts;
- The cut scenes are sharp, crisp and add to the gameplay; and
- Some of the environments are very detailed and look stellar.
As I suggested above, I was impressed with the main characters. For instance, some of the shots of Shrek at the beginning of the game in his prince suit are well done and very comical to boot. All in all, the characters are near duplicates of their on-screen movie characters. The only concern I had with the character animations was their movement could seem somewhat robotic and restricted at times. In my opinion their movements were not smooth as they could have been and it just appears more could have been done in this area.
For the most part I enjoyed the cut-scenes and found them to look very good. The opening scene with the flying donkeys looked very good on my HDTV coming from my Xbox 360 Elite via the HDMI connection. That scene also seemed to be improved from the Xbox Live demo which was released only a few weeks ago. I was impressed with the textures and the detail that went into all the cut-scenes. However I did have some concerns. Some of the scenes seemed to be weaker than others, in other words, some of the scenes seemed like PS2 scenes as opposed to next-generation console cut scenes. Fortunately, theses instances were few and far between and definitely didn't hamper the visual impact of the game.
The environments do look good however but do not expect the same animations and detail as if you were actually watching big screen version of Shrek the Third. The game does suffer from some 'jaggies' and there are some framerate issues which occur sporadically throughout the game. For some of you who have played the Halo 3 beta or GRAW 2, you will be disappointed in the environments. They will not appease your typical older gamer who have become accustomed to realistic and jaw-dropping graphics. Your kids however will love it and Shrek the Third offers up more than enough in the animation department to please Shrek's target audience. I should also note that the castles were well done, offering lots of detail and items for destruction.
The games enemy AI characters were a bit of disappointment as I found little variety or difference between the majority of them. Many of the characters look and all move in the same manner. Additionally, some of the camera angles in the game were dreadful and uncontrollable. At one point, I was controlling Shrek who was way down on the other side of the castle fighting the enemies and I was left squinting my eyes as I struggled to focus on the action. Unfortunately, you are left at the mercy of the game in the camera control department.
As far as the sound is concerned Shrek the Third is satisfactory. However, I have to admit that I was incredibly disappointed the original actors did not lend their voices in the game. That being said, one could only imagine the salaries Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas and Cameron Diaz would command if they were willing to do the voice-overs for Activision. In any event, the voice actors do a decent job. Shrek is the best impersonator in my opinion and Donkey's seemed the weakest. Much of your typical Shrek humour is back and the dialogue gets me a little more pumped up to see the movie. My four year old daughter also found herself laughing at some of the scenes in the game as she enjoyed the entertaining dialogue between the characters.
As far as the soundtrack is concerned this is the strength of the game. Much of the soundtrack is appears to be directly taken from the movie. The soundtrack adds to the intensity and excitement of the game and it and sounds very good in 5.1 surround sound. The punching effects and breaking boxes all sound terrific too and are worth mentioning. Overall, no serious concerns with respect to the audio package in Shrek the Third.
Shrek the Third starts off just as the movie does. Shrek, now married to Fiona, struggles to adapt to his new royal duties as the prince of Far Far Away when Fiona’s father, who was turned into a frog at the end of Shrek 2, becomes gravely ill. The king wishes Shrek to take on the crown and lead the people of Far Far Away. Shrek is not thrilled with the idea and decides to embark on a journey to find Artie, Fiona’s cousin, as a possible heir to the throne. Meanwhile, Prince Charming gathers an army of villains as he plots to take over the entire kingdom.
The story is told through a series of chapter-based puppet shows that occur between key levels. Throughout the game you not only play as Shrek but you also have opportunities to play as Puss in Boots, Donkey, Fiona, Artie and Sleeping Beauty. Each character has unique special abilities. There are about 20 levels which include extra game-exclusive scenes and characters, such as Academy Grounds and the Evil Queen. There are quest objectives, mini-games, and a multiplayer mode as well.
Much of the game is spent fighting hordes of enemies. The controls are very simple and it didn't take long for my four year to figure out how to jump and beat up the enemies. There are some advanced moves but for the most part you will spend your time bashing enemies, smashing crates and hoping from one ledge to another. Clearly the controls are aimed at children and the developers certainly pulled it off. Each character has their own style too. For instance Shrek just bashes everyone around where as Puss in Boots slices enemies up with his sword and Fiona uses a Kung-Fu attack. Each of these fighting styles mirrors their big screen characters. Another great aspect of the game is that there is unlimited lives and how the game puts you back in the spot where you just died. This is perfect for little ones who fall off a ledge 20 times before they figure out how to get the timing of the jump down.
In addition to the seemingly non-stop fighting, there are also objectives in the game where you can find secret collectibles and pickups like Souvenir Mugs and Coloring Book Pages. Collecting a certain amount of these ultimately earns you the ever so addictive Xbox Achievements. You can also take on optional Quest objectives for an added challenge. Shrek's mini-games also offer a nice break from the repetitive fighting. The following is a 'gist' of the mini-games:
1. Catacombs Leap – This is a Frogger-style mini-game. Players must use their platform skills to make their way across increasingly difficult obstacles. Note that all characters are able to do the Double Jump move in this mini-game. Each player starts with three lives.
2. Ships Ahoy – Similar in style to the Catapult Capture game, players must fire cannon balls at oncoming pirate ships. If a ship manages to reach the shore then it is “Game Over.”
3. Shooting Gallery – Players are scored on speed and accuracy in this carnival-style shooting gallery game. The targets will become increasingly faster as the player progresses though later rounds. The game is over when the clock runs out.
4. Frog Herder – Quickly herd the frogs into the pond on the left side of the map. Be careful of exploding mushrooms and keep an eye out for special power-ups that come out of the watermill. The game ends when you run out of time.
5. Shrekleboard – Shrek’s own brand of shuffleboard. The game is just like a regular shuffleboard game where players shoot pucks into scoring zones to rack up points. As players get into later rounds, however, various obstacles are placed in-between the player and the scoring zones, making it harder to direct the puck. Players must match the required score for the round in order to continue.
The mature gamer will spend about 5 minutes on each mini-game and be done with it. However, kids will love the games and ultimately keep them out of your hair and busy for hours.
In the Multiplayer mode you essentially compete against your friends with the goal being the first who destroys the other person’s castle wins. The multiplayer is in split screen only. This is area where Shrek the Third takes a hit unfortunately. An online fighting or sharpshooter component to the game could have separated this title from some of the other games in movie based genre.
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