|System: X360, PS3, Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pyro Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 17, 2009||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|
One of the other highlights of the game is the dogcatcher mission. Your job is simply to drive the dogcatcher's truck in whichever direction he indicates, and when a dog is in sight, you wait for it to come into catching range before tossing your net. It's another fairly simple premise, but the mix of motion-controlled driving and dog catching are completely satisfying.
Where the controls fall apart is during missions where you're either on foot or playing as Chuck's robot companion, Rover. The character controls are, just like in the PS2 GTA games, loosey-goosey, and the camera simply can't keep up with many of the actions you'll be asked to pull off. It is, therefore, a godsend that the game allows you to skip past missions you've failed at least twice. Missions are generally bite-sized, and unlike GTA, they're played out in one set order.
Though the game does do a bit of recycling and juggling around in terms of its mission structure, there's still a surprising amount of fun variety on offer here. There's no economy system in the game, but meaningful unlockables are ample incentive to see the game through to the end, as well as repeat completed missions. Photo albums, comic-book construction, and videos offer plenty of trinkets to tinker with once the main game has been completed, and it's great to see this tried-and-true formula presented in a bold, new way younger gamers can now enjoy.
Unfortunately, the in-game visuals are very weak, and though graphics aren't usually one of our strongest considerations in a game, they do ding the gameplay significantly in Planet 51. Everything from character models to the background textures and effects have a low-grade-PS2 quality to them, and constant pop-in and shimmer make the game look downright ugly at times. The real problem, though, has to do with hiccups in the framerate that occur far too often during missions. The world of Planet 51 isn't that interesting to roam around in, though it is surprisingly expansive. The art style is bland, and though the game's perfectly functional on a visual level, the developers do absolutely nothing to take advantage of the Wii's power.
The music does a much better job of supporting the gameplay, and themes are really well matched with their respective missions. Moody audio backdrops during Rover missions make a nice contrast to the sultry funk you'll hear during delivery missions. The dialogue is fully voiced, though the mouths of the characters often animate out of sync with the audio performances. Sound effects get the job done but do little to add any type of arcade-like excitement to gameplay.
The bottom line with Planet 51 on Wii is we had fun. The game has all sorts of problems, not least of all its low-rent production values and crazy on-foot camera system. Had the developers locked the camera behind your character's back, á la Resident Evil 4/5, we'd certainly have much less to complain about. That being said, the good ultimately outweighs the bad here, and young fans of the movie are getting an innovative take on a great gameplay formula they'd otherwise be too young to experience. If you can forgive some wonky mechanics and come to the game expecting nothing but light-hearted fun, you'll get your money's worth out of Planet 51.
CCC Freelance Writer