GAMECUBE REVIEW: CURIOUS GEORGE

If a barrel of monkeys is the accepted, quantified, definition of fun, then one monkey should barely be able to elicit a slight degree of amusement. Curious George, the videogame, contains only one monkey and as such seems to prove my theory. by Cole Smith

February 14, 2006 - Curious George, as a game, is a half-hearted attempt. It's a generic platform game that has been simplified for a younger audience offering very little challenge. It's also very short. A few mini-games have been tacked on but mostly they are little more than a make-work project. Overall the game is uninspired and certainly not worth the money. I know that many of you may be curious - but I advise you to look away.

Curious George, as a game, is a half-hearted attempt. It's a generic platform game that has been simplified for a younger audience offering very little challenge. It's also very short. A few mini-games have been tacked on but mostly they are little more than a make-work project. Overall the game is uninspired and certainly not worth the money. I know that many of you may be curious - but I advise you to look away.

Curious George is a classic children's book series that has been around since the 40s - which is most likely longer than your dad's dad has been alive. It's a timeless adventure story of a man and his monkey. George is a not-so-innocent little monkey whose curiosity leads to some big mischief. This videogame is based on the latest full-length animated feature starring the voice talents of Will Ferrell and Drew Barrymore - who do not lend their talents to the game. We do get David Cross (the bald-headed guy from Arrested Development and the Mr. Show) but sadly he turns in a lackluster performance.

The main problem here is that the Curios George series is squarely aimed at the younger demographic. The movie follows that philosophy to the letter. There are no double entendres or winks for the "knowing" mature viewers. This is serious kids' stuff. As a result, the videogame is also targeted for younger children but like so many games aimed at youngsters, it suffers from lame gameplay. It's as though the developers think that kids won't notice if the game is short, boring or derivative. Well, hopefully parents will be reading this review and they won't spend their hard-earned money on this digital pabulum. Rent it and save yourself about thirty-five bucks. It only takes an afternoon to complete, even if your kid is a total spaz.

Ted is the friendly man in the big yellow hat. He's returning from an expedition to Africa where he was searching for some new artifacts to display in the museum. If he doesn't get some new displays in there quickly, it's going to have to close its doors - or worse yet, get demolished. Unfortunately Ted didn't get what he wanted, but he's not returning empty handed. Seems that a curious little monkey has stowed away on board and is intent on exploring America. Ted quickly bonds with the little guy. The adventures begin every time that Ted turns his back on the curious one.

The developers missed opportunity after opportunity with the gameplay. As Curious George, the gameplay should have focused on exploration and puzzle solving with some platforming. Instead most of the gameplay revolves around light platforming, which is so easy it's almost impossible not to make the leaps. The platforming is so forgiving in some areas that there are invisible ledges on either sides of the some of the platforms that will keep you from falling if you happen to miss. There are some more involved platforming tasks such as when George has to jump on moving villagers' heads to gain access to the rooftops. To the game's credit the controls are decently tight and responsive and there are virtually no technical issues, with the possible exception of some of the camera angles.

Exploration is relegated to looking behind a few obstacles in search of bananas and curious points. These points can be used to unlock things and purchase items such as accessories for George. Unfortunately the game is very linear, forcing you into situations and puzzles. Most of the puzzles are of the platform variety where you attempt to find ways to cross over areas. For instance, you will push a tree over a river in order to cross it. Other times you'll have to jump atop various crates arranged in the best possible path. The solutions are basically spelled out for you with items lying directly in your path that you can use to swing from, climb and jump off of. Moves are basic and include running, crawling, jumping, double jumping, swinging and sliding.

Mini-games are an added bonus but they seem tacked on as though they were an afterthought. They consist mostly of rhythm games that have nothing to do with the movie or the children's books. These rhythm games consist of pressing the buttons as icons move across the screen in time to the beat of the music. If you can clap your hands to a Barney song, you can play these mini-games.

Mixing the gameplay with various cutscenes is the only way this game is going to keep the average kid's attention. The graphics in the cutscenes are just as good as the movie and the in-game graphics which are always somewhat lower, in terms of resolution, aren't bad looking at all. The character models are cel-shaded which gives them the illusion of depth. Following the art style of the storybooks, the backgrounds are not very detailed but what they lack in detail they make up for in color. The game, like the cartoon, uses lots of bright primary colors in contrasting styles. The animation is fluid and with the analog stick it's relatively easy to get George to go in any direction that you want him to. It's just too bad that the map wasn't open to exploration as I'm sure that would be a lot of fun for kids.

I will never fault a game for not being violent but that doesn't mean it should be void of fun. Even Curios George himself wouldn't find much interest in this game should ever come across it - and as we all know, he's exceptionally curious. Rent it - and forget it.

Features:

  • Guide George through a variety of adventure-packed levels based on the upcoming universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment animated family event film, Curious George, for release in February 2006.
  • Exolore, solve puzzles, tackle rhythm challenges and above all, make mischief! George always manages to cause trouble in the uniquely "reactive" 3D environments.
  • Meet and greet your favorite movie characters, enjoy in-game cut scenescrafted from actual film footage and groove to movie music.
  • Unlock special mini-games, film clips, movie tunes and more. Loads of bonus content will keep you playing long after the main quest is solved.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Curious George (GC)
3.5
Graphics
Very cartoonish with a sense of style that celebrates the game's vintage heritage.
3.2

Control
The game is too easy and won't challenge most gamers' abilities. There are some more difficult aspects but they are few and far between.

3.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
You won't hear Will Ferrill or Drew Barrymore, but the other actors manage to get the job done albeit with as little flair as possible.
1.5
Play Value
Lack of modes and unlockables will make George's visit to your household a very short one should you take my advise and rent this.
2.5
Overall Rating - Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PS2 (shown), X, GC, PC
Dev: Monkey Bar
Pub: Namco
Release: Feb 2006
Players: 1
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