Cory in the HouseESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer - Disney Interactive Studios
Publisher - Disney Interactive Studios
Kyle Massey has come along way in a short period of time since his days as Raven's husky little brother, Cory Baxter, in “That's so Raven”. His popularity has grown to the point where he now has his own spin-off show called “Cory in the House”. Amazingly enough, and just over a year since its debut on the Disney Channel, the show now has its own video game. This is really no surprise though as the show has become a power house for Disney and to release a game on the Nintendo DS really does make sense. Having had to watch several episodes of “Cory in the House” with my 5-year old daughter, who just so happens to love Raven and Cory, I knew what I was getting into when I asked our Editor in Chief to get a hold of Disney so we could review the game. It's not so much that I was looking forward to playing the game but I really wanted to see if my daughter would enjoy it, seeing as she is a fan of the show.
When it comes to the visuals in Cory in the House for the DS many of you will be disappointed. Other than the slick looking box art which features Cory, his Friends, and the trademark Cory in the House logo; the games visuals seem dated and certainly do not come close to pushing the limits of the DS. For starters, the presentation of the game and menus are very basic looking and appear more suitable for something akin to the Atari 2600. Yes, I am that old and did own an Atari 2600 back in the day but let’s not digress. Ok, maybe I am being a little to harsh on the menus and presentation but the reality is I have seen so much better on the DS. Considering Cory in the House is generally a very colourful and vibrant TV show on the Disney channel, you just don’t get that effect when firing up Cory in the House on the DS for the first time.
Much of Cory in the House takes place inside such locales as the Presidential mansion, a mall, a school and other long hallways which all start to look the same after awhile. There really isn’t much detail with the games environments and overall the levels appear somewhat bland. It almost seems as if they were thrown together over a weekend. For instance, if you walk towards the end of the hallway and can no longer walk any further, about a third of your screen is blue with some ‘Presidential’ stars. It almost appears the levels were dropped into the game giving the appearance that they are floating levels. This comes across as sloppy and it is simply unacceptable in this day in age. Also, when going through doors or up some stairs there is no continuity as the screen fades to black and drops you in another environment. The casual gamer may not have issues with these annoyances however it took me away from the game and left me that feeling I was playing an underachieving flash based shareware title.
On a positive note, the characters in Cory in the House are solid. Cory Baxter is easily recognizable as he wears his colourful XXL golf shirts in all the levels. His main friends such as Meena and Newt are very recognizable too. The facial profiles which pop up beside the text dialogue boxes also look pretty good. But all that written text will drive you nuts however and I will touch on this area a bit more below in the sound section. Overall, there is nothing visually awe-inspiring in this game and I don’t believe the graphics capture the essence of TV series. That being said, if your expectations are low you might not have any issues with the games visuals.
Similar to the graphics, the sound in Cory in the House was also a bit of a disappointment. It would have been great if the game featured an introduction which started out with the Cory in the House theme song, which I have to admit is a catchy tune. Unfortunately this is not the case. Instead you get some looping music which sounds more like bad shopping mall or elevator music as opposed to Cory in the House inspired funky rap tunes. At one point I had to go into the options menu and turn the music off as it was driving me nuts.
Another concern is the lack of character voice work. You simply don’t get to hear any Cory Baxter banter in the game at all. Instead you get this never ending stream of text dialogue to scroll through all throughout the game. You can’t just blame this on the storage medium of the DS either as there are other games on the DS with a lot of voice work in them. The endless text really makes me question whether the developers were keeping the games target audience on the forefront. Those just learning to read, who are also a significant percentage of Cory in the House fans, won’t be able to follow the game whatsoever. So when Cory’s dad tells you to go get a crème puff for instance, the little ones won’t have a clue what it is they are supposed to be looking for. Adding some simple voice over dialogue would have been helpful in the game and would have kept the entertainment value up a bit as well. Part of Cory in the House’s appeal is Cory himself and we just don’t get enough of his voice during the game.
Cory in the House for the DS is essentially an adventure game much like we have seen in other Disney titles such as High School Musical and Cheetah Girls. The basic premise of the story has Cory winning a contest for his cool Presidential bobble heads. He then embarks on a journey to sell his bobble heads to the citizens of Washington, DC but things take a turn for the worse when his bobble heads get into the wrong hands of an evil toymaker. The game centers around Cory’s adventures as he attempts to get his bobble heads back before the evil toymaker hypnotizes the population with hypnotic technology that he put inside the bobble heads. The game sounds great in theory but any greatness ends here.
I guess its bad sign when you daughter keeps telling you, “I don’t want to play the game dad. It’s boring. Cory just walks around and does nothing”. Well she has a point. Let’s just say that the game did a great job at making me feel sleepy. Much of it consists of moving through the hallways, talking with certain characters, skimming through the text dialogue and moving towards another person. It can get painful at times. It does not get much better even with the rare occasions when you get to play a mini-game either. You end up either feeling insulted by how easy the mini-game is or you are left wondering how anyone could get any joy out tapping the stylus pen on the screen to the beat of some canned computer music. On the flipside you do get some enjoyment launching those baking goods at the agents though but these fun moments in the game are few and far between.
The game’s main menu features 4 areas (Story, Arcade, Extras and Options). The story mode is self explanatory and after about 10 minutes into it I had enough and wanted to play some arcade games. Unfortunately I quickly realized many of the arcade games could only be unlocked as you progress in the single player mode so back I went into the single player mode. The extras consist of a gallery which features some pictures of the cast members and some other pics which come in the form of unlockables. That is about it for the extras. Of course the options menu allows you to adjust the volume of the sound, microphone and music.
The controls in the game are also problematic. Controlling Cory, or any of the other characters for that matter, feels quite clunky and jerky. It’s almost as if the characters have predetermined paths to walk and you can only move those characters in those paths. Although the controls are clunky they are relatively easy to pick up so this is a plus. You can use the stylus pen or press the A and B buttons for the majority of the games functions.
As indicated above, Cory in the House features mini-games within the single player story and in the Arcade. If you have played any Disney DS games in the past you will know exactly what I am talking about. They vary from connecting some electrical circuits to tapping to some painful beats with the stylus pen. Nothing is incredibly innovative with the mini-games as they are all games we have all played before in one fashion or another.
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