|System: X360, PS3, PC, Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: XPEC||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 18, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Although I consider myself a fan of the Shrek franchise, I have never really ventured into the tie-in game marketplace. Given that the movies have always featured such a strong narrative, I haven't felt the need to really augment my movie-going experience by playing the game. However, after playing Shrek Forever After, I have to say that I might have gotten it wrong. Though the game isn't particularly deep, it does nail the movie tie-in formula, and it manages to have a few memorable moments that will delight young players and just may charm some seasoned old-timers as well.
The game's plot follows the events fairly explicitly and assumes familiarity with the series. It wastes no time introducing you to Shrek and his friends, so if you've missed the last three movies, you may be lost at the beginning, as the events from the past movies (specifically the first two) affect the story directly. The game opens with the new character of Rumplestiltskin explaining that Shrek's entire life has been wrong, and he shouldn't have married Fiona or started a family. To correct this problem, Rumplestiltskin has Shrek sign a contact which Shrek believes will let him have his life back for one day. However, he ends up in an alternate world where he never met Fiona, and none of his adventures ever happened. The solution? True love's kiss, of course!
The game puts you in charge of the movie's four protagonists: Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, and Puss in Boots. Although only one character will appear on-screen at a time, you can switch between them with the quick press of a directional button. Each character has their own life meter, and they also have a special skill that will help you solve the game's many puzzle levels. Shrek is the heavy lifter of the bunch, Fiona is the incendiary specialist, Puss can reach high areas, and Donkey can kick.
Using these characters' special skills together forms the backbone of the gameplay mechanic, and even though most of the game's environment-based puzzles are extremely simplistic (carry box with Shrek, kick it into place with Donkey, and then set it on fire with Fiona), the game's puzzles are challenging enough for a younger audience to enjoy. However, the game is more than just puzzles. After clearing three or four puzzle rooms, you'll be able to participate in arena-style battles with baddies attacking you from all sides. Although combat in Shrek Forever After is simple (you only have one attack button), you can use a little bit of strategy as each character is able to "stun" characters so they can rack up combos and use special moves.
Though the puzzle-and-brawl formula will seem very shallow for older gamers, it works perfectly for younger gamers. And while some of the puzzles do get challenging towards the end, the game has a hint system that allows you to trade in-game currency for a single step of the puzzle solution. If you are really stumped, you can pay more to reveal more, or even enough for the entire solution. This is a great failsafe for the youngest players who may become easily frustrated by some of the later puzzles (which I can admit even took me awhile to figure out!). While older and more experienced players will find the game's formula to be a bit tedious, it is perfect for younger players who are new to video games or don't have much experience with complicated titles.
Technically, Shrek forever after is spot on. The visuals are nicely detailed, and both the real Far Far Away and the constructed one (you can travel between both via the Magic Mirror) come to life in great detail. Although all of the levels follow a linear path, the game does a great job of fleshing out the world around the characters, and it is unlikely that young ones who pick up this title will get bored with their surroundings. The sound in this title is also very good, and it features some very convincing performances by the sound-alike cast. The background music is sampled from the movie's score, and the arena battle areas feature some of the most memorable songs from the franchise's history (including the ubiquitous "I'm a Believer" remake from the first movie.)
Shrek Forever After is not a game for everyone. However, if you know kids that are interested in the Shrek movies, this is definitely a worthwhile investment. With varied gameplay and solid technical specs, this title is a perfect fit for young or budding gamers, and it fits well with the story of the new movie. Though the game itself isn't very long, there is enough content here for at least ten hours of kid-friendly gameplay.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor