Alpha and Omega for the Nintendo DS is a very strange video game. As it seems to follow the recent CG film on which it was based very closely, the developers probably felt that, because all of these things appeared in the movie, it was necessary to shove talking wolves, cupcakes, snowboarding and golf into the same game. Since I haven’t seen the movie, I can’t really say how all of that works on screen, though the story presented in the game’s cut scenes seems to make sense. When all of these things were assembled into the Alpha and Omega video game, however, things did not go so smoothly.
Since golfing and snowboarding on a log would be difficult to do simultaneously, even virtually, Alpha and Omega is comprised of a series of read-along storybook style cut scenes strung together by minigames. Unlike many minigames, where the amount of games included seems to be the major selling point, Alpha and Omega only has four minigames that you have to play over and over again. Of the four included, which are an awkwardly controlled snowboarding game, miniature golf, some generic platforming, and a touch-based minigame, none are very good. Luckily, all of them are basically playable.
The biggest problem with Alpha and Omega’s gameplay is the fact that the difficulty is fraught with discrepancies. For the first hour or so of gameplay, everything is incredibly easy, as is to be expected from a kids’ game. Some parts of it stay that way, like the impossible to lose golf game, while others, such as the music game, progress in difficulty at a reasonable rate. By the end of the other two minigames, however, you’re manipulating glitches in order to survive and back flipping off of mountains while collecting cupcakes and escaping a bear. To save younger gamers from frustration, losing enables players to skip especially difficult levels in order to move the story forward. For players set on finishing each level, things are decidedly less pleasant.
While Alpha and Omega’s gameplay is uneven, the graphics and sound are consistently bad. Though I don’t have any problems with the music itself, it all sounds muffled and fuzzy, as does the voice of the abnormally calm narrator. It also doesn’t help that, except for in the music game, each minigame only has one piece of background music that plays on an infuriating loop. The graphics are also quite repetitive, with blurry forest backgrounds that seem to repeat like the hallways in old Hanna-Barbera cartoons populated by faceless and palette swapped wolf sprites that move in a perfectly synchronized fashion. They are functional, but not very pleasant to look at.
As you’ve probably noticed, my opinion of Alpha and Omega is not terribly high. Still, if I knew a younger gamer who enjoyed the movie, I wouldn’t feel guilty about having them play it. The initial game is only three or four hours long, but the high score tables and somewhat mysteriously appearing achievements lend it decent replay value. The calmly narrated cut scenes that retell the movie’s story are also a relatively nice way to tie the game the film upon which it was based. Besides, for all of Alpha and Omega’s presentation problems, there are games that are far more irritating to play.