I approached this game with an open mind, especially due to fond, youthful memories of Pooh, and though the game is aimed at a younger demographic, I still had certain expectations. Some of these were met, and some were not. Let’s discuss.
The premise of Rumbly Tumbly Adventure is that Pooh is walking along with Christopher Robin when a sudden strong rumble erupts in his tummy – evidently he hasn’t eaten in some time. However, rather than grabbing a quick snack to quell the hunger, Christopher Robin instead suggests Pooh think back to previous adventures as a distraction to keep his hunger at bay.
This sets up an episodic structure for the game, as well as interactive menus, interactive in the sense that you move Pooh around the on-screen environment to do certain things. Looking at a photo album kicks off the main adventure. Walking up to Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger starts multiplayer mini-games. Hopping in a cart and riding off to a big wonky machine allows adjustment of game options. The interactive menus closely connect the player to the game world, but it does therefore take longer to tweak simple settings, certainly longer than utilizing a basic text-based menu. This drawn out interaction could have been included to intentionally but subliminally extend the game’s play time – especially since Rumbly Tumbly Adventure’s handful of relatively simple quests can be finished in less than a day by a determined player. Even small kids should have little trouble keeping track of what’s going on and where they need to be.
The two biggest problems with the game exist through its illogical item collection system and the obscene amount of loading time. There are a wide variety of locations to visit in the Hundred-Acre Woods, but instead of making the game free-roaming, a la Grand Theft Auto or Mercenaries, only small chunks are available at any one time, prompting an unnerving frequency of load times whenever you move from one part to another. On the other hand, the visuals are really rather good, rivaling even graphical benchmarks like Prince of Persia and Ico. Both of those games have bigger spaces to play in, though, even with the same visual luster. But, lest we forget, Rumbly Tumbly Adventure is a game for kids, and perhaps the developers felt that imposing too much freedom would bore or confuse little players.
As for the item collection, there are often clouds of bees blocking access to objectives, and they can only be led away by a sacrifice of honey. Where does Pooh get that golden gooey nectar? Not from his house, and not from a hive – but from just about everywhere else. Honey hiding places glow slightly when compared to the surrounding terra firma, but how would one successfully extract pots of honey from a boulder? Well, by punching it?of course!
Sure, it’s fantasy and doesn’t have to make sense, but upon making contact with said honey-concealing object, the honey pots launch out in all directions, making them difficult to keep track of. This is compounded by the fact that you have no camera control and the pesky liberated pots bounce away faster than poor Pooh can chase after them. What’s most frustrating is that the pots will simply disappear back into the hiding place if not claimed in short order, thus requiring you to bang the object again and chase the same stupid pots around the same stupid area. Why couldn’t they just stay put once released? You can’t give up, though, since those obstructive bees need to go away before moving forward. It’s not difficult to progress, just annoying.
The game’s sound effects and music are on par with its excellent visuals, and it even showcases voice actors straight from the Disney television series. They do a great job playing?well, the characters we know them for playing. Still, this subtle but effective detail could have been carelessly glossed over during production, but due development time was invested and the end product is fantastic.
Ambient sound and visual effects add even more to the polish of the experience. Butterflies and other bugs flutter through the luscious landscapes, water sloshes lazily down the stream, and musical numbers fitting for a Pooh merrily keep you company along your journey.
Combat consists of running from Heffalumps and other meanies, and getting to a balloon so you can pop it to scare them away. It’s a non-violent approach and pretty simple to execute. If you do get stuck on any puzzle, locale, or situation in general, Gopher is there to lend some advice or a reminder about the item you might be missing.
Aside from traveling around chasing honey pots, there are specific situations where the other Milne characters come into play – like when you have to ride around on Eeyore’s back with a net, catching butterflies for Roo. It’s amusing and breaks up the standard fetch-quest gameplay style.
The multiplayer modes are painfully simple. They range from a Pac-Man-esque ?see who can grab the most items and avoid the baddies’ to a race to catch a runaway honey pot – a race this (veteran) reviewer never managed to win because the pot always ran towards my opponent first. There’s not much to any of these mini-games, but they might keep younger minds entertained for a while.
In the end, something as wholesome and non-violent as Pooh has a hard time translating well to the videogame medium, where struggling against a clear antagonist through brute force is the generally accepted rule of the day. As it stands, Rumbly Tumbly Adventure is an impressive technical achievement, as it admirably brings the world of Pooh to life with lovingly crafted sights and sounds. But, polish and affection aside, it does lack engaging gameplay, smooth level transitions, and any sense of consuming depth and longevity. Then again, if you’re under the age of 5, you probably don’t know what any of those things are, and therefore won’t notice their absence. Youngsters may very well get a worthwhile kick out of Rumbly Tumbly Adventure, but older gamers jonesing for something from their childhood would be better off sticking with the Kingdom Hearts series.