Hannah Montana: The MovieESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Published by: Disney Interactive Studios
Developed by: n-Space
Having just played and reviewed Henry Hatsworth for the DS, there is no doubt Hannah Montana: The Movie for the Nintendo DS had a tough act to follow when the game landed on my plate for review. Considering it is a movie based game, and is a game clearly aimed for tweens, I kept my expectations low. At the very least, I figured my daughter stood a good chance of enjoying the game. Also, from a reviewer’s perspective, I am always curious to see how my 6-year old daughter enjoys playing a title like this as the last time I checked 33-year old males were not part of Hannah Montana’s target audience. Unfortunately the game was not the big hit with my daughter that I had envisioned nor did it leave any lasting impressions with me. That being said, not all is lost with Miley Cirus’ latest instalment on the DS.
Visually, Hannah Montana: The Movie for the DS is not a bad looking game; but it is not a great looking one either. On the surface, the overall look of the game stays true to the Hannah Montana franchise and presentation-wise fans will be pleased. But for more mature gamers, the visuals appear weak, rushed and underwhelming. Much of the games visual deficiencies may be due to the limitations of the hardware, however when compared to other games in its genre, Hannah fails to deliver.
On a positive note, I found the characters in the game looked decent. Hannah, for the most part, is recognizable in all the many customizable outfits she can wear in the game. Other characters such as Lily, Bobby Ray and others, are recognizable too. The profiles which pop up beside the text dialogue boxes also look pretty good. I did find that all the written text will drive you nuts; but I will touch on this area a bit more below in the sound section. The games environments are decent looking but many areas appear too bland and lack any real detail. On the other hand, the various stages where Hannah performs look surprisingly good as they feature her on a jumbotron screen in the background. Overall, there is nothing visually awe-inspiring in this game. That being said, if your expectations are kept at a minimum you might not have any issues with the visuals.
Overall, the sound is somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand there is a good selection of Hannah Montana songs at your disposal. That is once you have unlocked all 8 tunes. My daughter loved the songs and stood as one of the only redeeming factors for her. In any event the tunes sound good coming out of the DS’ tiny speakers. As far as the rest of games sound effects are concerned, nothing is incredibly innovative or original.
Additionally there is no voice work in the game. You simply don’t get to hear any Hannah Montana banter in the game at all. Instead you get a never ending stream of text dialogue to scroll through. 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 Hannah Montana fans, won’t be able to follow the game whatsoever. 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.
Hannah Montana: The Movie for the DS is essentially an adventure game much like we have seen in other Disney titles such as High School Musical, Corey in the House and Cheetah Girls. The games storyline essentially follows the story of the movie. Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) has become overwhelmed with her alter-ego’s (Hannah Montana) popularity. As a result, her dad decides to take her back home to Tennessee. Miley’s friend Lilly helps to keep her other identity a secret and while eventually Miley meets Travis (Lucas Till), a friend from her childhood. So the game follows Miley and her struggles in her duel life as she explores, chats and completes quests that unlock various venues, songs, fashion items and more. The game sounds great in theory but any greatness ends here.
When you first fire up Hannah Montana: The Movie for the DS you will notice the game’s main menu features four areas (Story, Quick Play, Options and DGamer). The story mode is where I spent the bulk of my time and it features an approximately 3-5 hour single player campaign. Quick play is where you can jump into a performance or play a mini-game which gets unlocked in Story Mode without loading a previously saved game. The Options screen is where you can change the games settings or view the credits. Finally, DGamer gives you access to the new online community exclusively for Disney gamers.
Although the single player experience does not take that long to complete it is a tedious endeavour. Much of the game involves walking around and chatting with different characters. Perhaps if they had anything compelling or interesting to say it would be a different story but it is a somewhat painful experience. Going back and forth between rooms becomes tiresome and often I wished Hannah had a sprint button so we could speed things up. Quests and mini-games spice things up a bit but more often than not the game just made me sleepy and was a little too advanced for my 6-year old.
The controls are easy to pick up and no tutorial mode is needed. Other than walking around and using the stylus pen to activate conversations, Miley/Hannah does not do much. I often wished she had a punch button, so I could walk up to Billy Ray and sock him one. Unfortunately, there is no such button.
As you plod along through the games plot searching and chatting with various people the game does throw you into various on-stage performances. A giant stage appears and Hannah is at the center of attention. Around the stage are several areas where Hannah can go. She can perform some dance moves or join the other band members and play some guitar, drums, keyboards or sing on the microphone. Again, seems decent on the surface but once you activate the various areas it won’t be long before you start shaking your head in disappointment. For instance, you can activate the keyboard and tap the falling notes to make keyboard sounds. Unfortunately, the notes are not in tune with the main song and the keyboard merely competes with the song in the background. The whole experience feels tacked-on and out of place. Not to mention it makes for quite an annoying experience.
There are three mini-games in the game which have some enjoyable elements. None of the games are particularly challenging but do offer a nice break from fetch like quests and incessant chatting. The Milk Job Topple was my favourite where all you need to do is throw beanbags at milk jugs at a country fair. You get points for each jug you topple.
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