Shrek 2 is a funny movie; I really enjoyed watching it?and I laughed a lot. In keeping with that spirit Shrek 2, the action/puzzle game from Activision that is based on the movie, is also a funny game – sort of. Unfortunately, it is only marginally enjoyable to play, and it only made me laugh once or twice. However, luckily enough for Shrek and his pals, I’m not reviewing the level or quality of the comedy in this game. Personally, I’m more concerned with the overall game, which, honestly, is pretty decent when compared to most movie-to-videogame adaptations.
The game is squad-based; you control a group of four rotated characters picked from Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, Gingerbread Man, Lil’ Red, and Puss in Boots. You usually have Shrek and Donkey in your group as default, with the other characters intermittently filling the other two spots at appropriate times during the story. Each individual character has different abilities on offer: Shrek is able to lift heavy things, Donkey has a super charged kick, Fiona can slow time, Puss in Boots can walk on wires, and Lil’ Red and the Gingerbread Man both have ranged attacks. Throughout each game area, you have to utilize your group’s respective abilities in order to solve puzzles and progress through the game.
The story is basically the same as the one told through the film, but a majority of the gameplay transpires between the scenes you’re likely to remember. You start out with Shrek, Fiona, and their pals heading off to Far Far Away to meet Fiona’s parents. On the way they free the Seven Dwarves from some cages, catch some fairies for a leprechaun, and save the Three Blind Mice from a witch. These are all events that we did not witness during the movie, and they take up a good portion of the game. The same applies to all playable areas in Shrek 2. This is definitely a good thing, though, as it provides some much needed variety for the player.
Speaking of variety, Shrek 2 has it by the truckload, and it is where the game really excels. There are a lot of different types of missions for the player to complete; everything from protecting Cinderella from muggers while she window shops, or stopping the rat infestation caused by the Pied Piper, to collecting snail eyeballs for Shrek to snack on during the long ride to Far Far Away. The team aspect really comes in handy during these missions, and the player will often find they have to use the abilities of multiple characters to complete a set task. Add to that the game’s capacity for multiplayer, where friends can plug in extra controllers and take command of any of the three available characters, and this aspect of the game really starts to shine.
The game itself is actually pretty straightforward in terms of challenge; once you learn all the controls there’s nothing in the game that will pose too much of a hindrance. The enemies are fairly easy to defeat and a lot of the missions require little more than walking around and collecting needed items. The only real difficulty comes from all the variety that the gameplay has to offer. On one level you will be chasing a club-wielding troll in order to retrieve stolen family jewels. On another you might be fighting with Puss in Boots through gameplay that requires pushing the controller’s buttons in a certain order to thrust and parry at the appropriate times. The tasks themselves are not especially difficult, but adjusting to all the different types of gameplay may temporarily slow your progress through the game. Apart from that, the game tends to be a little too easy, even for kids.
The graphics are terrific for the most part; the game world is vibrant and colorful, and mirrors that which was portrayed in the film versions of Shrek. The characters all look and move like their big screen counterparts, too. The abilities of the characters and the resulting effects are all top-notch. The coolest effect is the transparent ripple that Fiona sends out when she slows time. If you choose to go by appearances alone, the menu system looks absolutely superb. All the menus and the level introductions are done in the form of a story book, and each menu is on its own page. If you wish to go to the next menu, then the page turns with a neat animation that makes you feel as though you’re looking at a real book. Unfortunately, it seems that some corners may have been cut in Shrek 2’s development; the menus suffering some serious random lag, as do the cut scenes within the actual game. Subsequently this can goof up the audio – apart from being rather annoying. The menu system and cut scenes should run smoothly, but do not; a bit of a jump here or there in the video is okay, but to cut off the dialogue of a character in mid-sentence during a cut scene is simply unacceptable.
The game’s environmental sounds are all realized superbly; ambient atmospherics mean that forests feel like forests and towns feel like towns?simple but effective. The real audio treat comes in the form of the actors from the film reprising their character voices for the game. All the major characters have their true voices from the movie. This isn’t merely rehashed dialogue snatched from the film and plugged into the game, either – most of it is completely new. It’s endearing to see these popular screen characters spewing completely new dialogue. There is a downside to this as well, though, which is that the characters make comments during combat and while walking around. And that’s all well and good; it makes the characters appear more lifelike. But unfortunately, though these comments are performed by the original voice actors, it doesn’t make them any less annoying when they repeat the same things over and over again. Popular actors voicing the characters they helped make famous – Good. Incessantly repeating the same annoying dialogue over and over – Bad.
Overall, Shrek 2 is fairly decent. The team dynamic and puzzle solving make for a great addition, and the variety in the gameplay is superb. When it comes down to it, though, the game is too easy and has too many bugs. There are enough worthy elements to warrant renting it, but unless you are the president of the Shrek Fan Club, I wouldn’t recommend forking over your hard-earned money for this one.