NINTENDO DS REVIEW: OVER THE HEDGE

Over The Hedge may not be killin' 'em at the box office anymore, but the game is better than you'd expect. Far better. by Cole Smith

June 30, 2006 - It may be my imagination but it seems that movie-inspired games are actually getting better. For years a good movie-based game was the exception, not the rule as many of these games were rushed out to capitalize on a movie's popularity, particularly ones aimed at kids that the developers erroneously assumed wouldn't know any better. I don't know what they are thinking, because who knows games better than pre-teens?

Over the Hedge is a wacky movie, and it makes a darn good game. The game is good enough to stand on its own, even if the movie didn't exist. It's rife with action, adventure, platforming, puzzles, stealth, interesting characters and an engaging storyline that assimilates itself into the gameplay formula like it was made for it.

Over The Hedge screenshot

Over the Hedge for the DS is an entirely different game than the next-gen console versions of the same name. While it features the main characters and situations from the movie, the gameplay has been created to take advantage of the DS's touch screen and processing capabilities. This is a really great looking game, with excellent 3D environments and smooth character animation. The control system is unique and implements both the dual screen and the touch control system.

RJ the racoon, Vern the turtle and Hammy the squirrel are the three main stars of the movie - and of this game. They all possess different abilities and must be used like interchangeable tools throughout the game. You can choose any of the three characters by simply selecting their icon on the screen. It only takes a split second to change them and there are times when you will have to alternate between two of them rather quickly. Not only is there a good variety of gameplay variation but there's a lot of thinking involved which is a refreshing change from a mindless shooter. There is nothing too complicated in this game which makes it perfect for gamers of all skill levels.

So what's your motivation, you ask? As a poor woodland creature, you are faced with the prospect of having your habitat overhauled and turned into a swimming pool. In order to delay the developers, and even put an end to the construction, the three characters will have to perform a variety of side missions in the form of fetch-quests that will arm certain animals with the tools they need to help save their land. Many of these items will be found in the civilized world of the humans. The diminutive trio will have to navigate their way through streets and homes by climbing on vantage points such as cars, chairs, counters and other obstacles. Here they can scout out the situations and locate potential threats such as humans and the domesticated but dangerous cats and dogs that are hard-wired to attack wild animals. Other threats include sprinklers, lawn dart-throwing garden gnomes and various other traps. Figuring out how to thwart them is where you imagination comes in handy.

Over The Hedge screenshot

The top screen gives you the standard third-person view while the bottom screen gives you an isometric, (or top down) view. With the isometric perspective you can see enemies that aren't in your line of sight on the top screen. The bottom screen will also display the enemies' line of sight, as a cone-shaped radar. As long as you remain out of the cone, you will be safely out of sight. You can also access weapons and items that you need to complete puzzles by selecting them from the bottom screen. Once you are within range of using the item it will glow green indicating that it can be used. The mix of stealth, puzzle-solving and platforming are well integrated and feel organic rather than just a bunch of disparate elements thrown together simply for the sake of gameplay variety. All of the missions are within reach of virtually all players' skill levels both physical and mental, which will have you anticipating the next challenge.

Control-wise the game is solid. The characters respond instantly to commands and they animate smoothly. The camera angles always seem to afford you the best possible view, allowing you to further tweak it when you're doing recon or performing stealth. The two separate perspectives on each of the dual screen is a great addition but the animals are angled in such a way that they are always looking up. It's almost impossible to look down regardless of how high up you are.

Graphically the game is great. It begins with some excellent, fully animated and fully voiced cutscenes that set up the premise, but sadly don't set the tone for the rest of the game as it reverts back to lower quality in-game graphics with text-based dialog. The story is no less interesting and the characters' charm still permeates the dry-looking text.

Over The Hedge screenshot

Even if you haven't seen the movie, give Over the Hedge a chance. It's not just for kids. It's loaded with variety and will engage your mind, not just your reflexes. At the very least give it a rent.

Features:

  • Players Experience The Camaraderie And Wacky Adventures Of Three Woodland Creatures As They Take Over Suburbia –– Using the unique personalities and skills of RJ, Verne and Hammy, gamers conquer a neighborhood filled with foes such as Nugent the dog, Vincent the bear, the Taxidermist and Gladys Sharp, the animal-hating president of the homeowner''s association.
  • Over The Hedge For the Nintendo DS Takes Players Beyond The Film –– After the first few missions have told the story of the movie, gamers play as three of their favorite characters in a quest to save their woodland home from being over-run by a housing development project.
  • Players are challenged with 20 unique, heist-oriented missions in some of the most visually exciting 3D platforming gameplay ever seen on the NDS. The game is shown on both screens and players can use the NDS microphone to distract and surprise enemies. Gamers can play with a friend in the wireless mini-game with a single Over the Hedge NDS cartridge.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Over The Hedge (DS)
4.5
Graphics
The beginning cutscenes are amazing. Not as good as the rest of the game but the 3D environments are top shelf.
4.6
Control
Very tight and responsive controls. The dual screens give you two different perspectives which is essential to making strategic decisions.
3.7
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The tunes are good and the sound effects just reek of Saturday-morning cartoon. Too bad the dialog is text based.
2.5
Play Value
You might get a few more hours out of the game but that would be pushing it.
3.9
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Over The Hedge Box Art
System: DS
Dev: Vicarious Visions
Pub: Activision
Released: June 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best