If you've listened to our most recent podcast, you'll understand the feelings of the MyGamer staff in regards to movie inspired video games. They are generally cheaply cranked out drivel that only appeals to uninformed parents looking to buy something safe for their kids. With that in mind, I was completly floored when I played Shrek the 3rd for Nintendo DS and it not only didn't stink…it wasn't that bad.
This phenomenon might be due to the fact that unlike most of its kin, Shrek doesn't rely on some overused platforming engine. It actually borrows a little known but classic formula from The Lost Vikings for the SNES. In this game, the player controls three characters, Shrek, Puss N' Boots and Arthur. The object is to get all three characters across the stage to the exit. In the way are roadblocks, elevators, axe wielding gaurds, pitfalls and trolls. Each of the three characters has their own set of talents to deal with these obstacles. Shrek is your brute who can pummel barriers and enemies handily. Puss can stab with his rapier, roll into tight locations and is the only character that can leap. Arthur's shield can be thrown at distant switches or pesky enemies, or he can stand sentry to give cover to his allies. Donkey helps from a distance using Merlin's wand (your stylus) to cast spells as needed. By holding the L button, players can make plants grow or make the enemy's weapons disappear with the stylus. You can also summon a wind by blowing into the mic. This knocks flying foes out of the skies and is used in solving certain puzzles.
Though there are enemies to fight on each stage, this game is more puzzle than action. Players have to decide which characters to place in key locations to open up the path to the other side. Most of the time, enemies are simply there to create a diversion from puzzle solving, though occasionally, a well placed axe chucker can require some planning to defeat. Bosses in particular require some coordination and planning with your characters to defeat.
The interface for controlling the three characters works simply enough. To switch characters, just touch the portrait of the character that you want to use on the bottom screen. If you want any nearby characters to follow you, just click the linking vines between your current character's portrait and theirs. Shrek's controls are equally functional. You pretty much just have to draw a line in the direction you want him to slam into things. Puss is a little trickier. You have to draw a line at the angle you want him to jump, but that doesn't work too well. Most of my jumps came out inaccurate and had me falling a frustrating number of times. It would be nice for just this one function to have the option to use the buttons. Arthur's shield throw works the same way and is similarly difficult, but you don't lose health from falling and have to climb back up a mountain every time you miss with that.
Surprisingly, the voice acting was executed almost perfectly with Donkey's voice (who you hear for the majority of the game) sounding pretty close to the movie. The music is typically dull and repetitive of the genre, but Donkey's voice actually tends to liven things up. Also, the amount of dialogue is decent and entertaining.
The graphics aren't bad, but they aren't anything great. Still, that's more than most movie games can say. The 3-D models animate smoothly and the backgrounds change before you can get sick of them. The worst thing about the graphics are actually the still shots taken from the movie. To make matters worse, the game actually expects you go out of your way to get a special item on each stage that will show you one of these shots. Each one supposedly lets you in on what's going on elsewhere in Far Far Away. If the makers were hoping this would add plot and depth to the game, I don't think that's achieved by telling us "bad guys are somewhere doing bad things."
If it seems like I'm being harsh to this game, please refer to my review of "Kong: King of Atlantis," because as far as kid friendly games with a recognizable character on the cover go, this is one of the better titles out there. In fact, I might go so far as to say a parent might enjoy playing this title while their kid is doing his homework. Though I still wouldn't recommend they buy it for themselves.