|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Activision||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 9, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
In a nutshell, Shrek Smash and Crash is your basic, generic kart racer with a Shrek license. The gameplay is largely predictable but it's made more palatable by the inclusion of Shrek characters, locations, situations, and, of course, that inimitable brand of Shrek humor.
Unfortunately these elements are not ingrained heavily enough in the gameplay. While it's enjoyable on a shallow level, it's certainly not recommended for anything but a rental. Young kids are likely to get the most out of it, but even they will notice the glaring flaws such as repetitive dialogue, unchallenging AI, vaguely differing modes, and the relative shortness of game.
Shrek Smash and Crash features various Shrek characters such as Donkey, Princess Fiona, the Gingerbread Man, and Shrek himself in a kart racing adventure. The racing component is an amalgam of navigating obstacles and implementing offensive tactics such as the use of comical weapons to slow down your opponents. The tracks take you through various Shrek-style, fairytale environments that include obstacles and booby traps such as swinging gates, drawbridges, moats, log swings, and windmills. It's kind of like driving miniature vehicles through a miniature golf course that has a fairytale theme. There are also an assortment of monstrous creatures such as giant spiders and dragons to avoid. This would seem like a lot of gameplay elements but I've seen more diversity in one dungeon of a good RPG than I did in this entire game.
A decent assortment of power-ups in the form of boosts and offensive weapons can be found on these courses. Some of the weapons, such as Pinocchio's nose and Donkey's microphone, are character-specific. Each rider has slightly different stats and different vehicles which also give them different abilities. These vehicles run the gambit from mechanical marvels to magical flying carpets, as well as a plethora of rideable beasts such as a wolf, horse, bull, and bog monster. There are 12 racers in all, and although it's fun to try them all, it's disappointing when you find out that the differences are so subtle among them as to be almost moot.
Technically the game is solid. The tracks are imaginative and display a very convincing 3D perspective with good draw distance and virtually no pop-up. The controls are smooth and responsive, but it can take a while to get totally comfortable with the steering. I wouldn't attribute this to the controls as much as I would the environment and you're A.I. opponents that tend to throw your kart around and cause you to make turns sharply and quickly. You'll pick up speed boosts along the way, but you'll also end up driving over magical sections of track that will launch your vehicle into the air. Needless to say, it's difficult to recover from such a misfortune, but the A.I. is easily fooled and foiled. As long as you have some degree of driving skills, you'll be able to catch up to them with little effort, as they seem to wait for you to join the pack. Weapons such as swamp gas which emits a smoke screen can be all but ineffective on the A.I. It may slow them down a bit, but they'll be right behind you in no time. An assortment of explosives are available in the form of bombs and missiles. They are more effective than the smoke screen, but you'll also find yourself on the receiving end of a few of these projectiles. I don't need to tell you how frustrating it is to be leading the pack because of superior driving skills only to be taken down by a cheap shot.
Despite what may appear to be a glut of modes, both single and multiplayer, they are just shallow variations on the same theme. Single-player modes include Story, Time Trials, Tournament, Cup Tournament, and Quick Race. All of the modes use the same tracks but they vary in the unlockables. You'll unlock most of your unlockables in the Story, Tournament, and Cup Tournament modes. Points are awarded in the Tournament mode, and at the end of each track you'll be able to unlock different characters and vehicles. The Cup Tournament divides the tracks into four legs of three courses. As suggested by the title, you'll earn cups for your efforts if you come in first. Time Trials lets you race through each track without any competitors in an effort to get the best time. This mode does possess some challenge to it, but I lost interest quickly since I was overly familiar with the tracks by this point. With another player you can access the multiplayer mode. It's a solid mode technically, but it's only slightly more interesting than the other single-player modes and is not likely to extend your replay value significantly.
The characters look good and with good voiceacting impersonators, they sound nearly identical to their movie counterparts. What is disappointing is that each character has only a few lines that they repeat, win or lose. There are a few humorous exchanges, but I don't know about you, but I can only laugh at a joke once. There's plenty of potential for guffaws in a game like this. It's obvious the developers didn't care about melding the characters in this game with the characters from the movie. The characters in this game remind me of "wax figures" of the stars of the film. Devoid of any personality, just going through the motions like an automaton.
Where the characters' dialogue falls short, the music scores major points in the audio department with a rocking soundtrack. The background music isn't bad either, and the sound effects, though repetitive, are very cartoon-inspired and do the Shrek license proud.
All of the environments are imaginative, colorful, and filled with Shrek-inspired detail. They are a great sight to behold, but alas, they are all too short. I would liked to have seen double the amount of tracks. At the least the developers didn't resort to padding each level with repetitive backgrounds just to make them longer. I guess, in a sense, it's better to leave them wanting more, but what I felt more than anything after playing this game was disappointment. And that's something that I just don't want more of.
CCC Senior Writer