|System: X360, Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pipeworks Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 5, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
After spending weeks gorily popping the heads off countless raiders and other denizens of the irradiated wastes, diving headlong into much tamer territory on the Xbox 360 is a somewhat jarring experience. Bubbly, comedic fare loaded with lighthearted jokes and extremely safe, schlocky subject matter certainly seems out of place on a system that thrives on action, violence, and mature content. Microsofts console does indeed have some quality all-ages titles to enjoy, but Night of the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is not one of them.
Its a safe bet to suggest the Nintendo editions of Battle of the Smithsonian will do better sales-wise, as this sparse, cringe-worthy movie tie-in sticks out like a sore thumb on the Xbox 360. The game has some shining moments where creative mechanics prove to be reasonably enjoyable to mess around with, but the constant hand-holding and absurdly short length make it a game that will only really appeal to kids whove become hopelessly obsessed with the film. Considering a casual playthrough of the main game clocks in at only slightly longer than the time it takes to watch the movie itself, even the fun and occasionally funny moments in Battle of the Smithsonian dont make up for its extremely limited value.
In the original film (which wasnt accompanied by a video game tie-in), divorcee Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) takes a job as a night watchman at Museum of Natural History in New York City, and discovers an ancient, magic-infused Egyptian tablet brings the museums exhibits to life each night. Following the same plot as the movie sequel, Battle of the Smithsonian finds the Museum of Natural History closed for renovations and the exhibits moved into storage. Larry winds up as a caretaker at the Smithsonian where it turns out the Pharaohs brother Kahmunrah seeks to possess the magical tablet for his own diabolical plans. With the help of the newly re-animated Amelia Earhart and other exhibit pals, Larry goes museum hopping to recover scattered pieces of the tablet and figure out how to stop Kahmunrahs evil plot.
Stillers likeness is spot-on, and the Xbox 360s hefty graphical capabilities are put to good use here. Exploring the museum from a third-person perspective gives you plenty of room to pick up the visual flourishes applied to the environments and the wacky characters. Some levels appear rather dull in comparison to others, but most areas of the game are pleasantly polished. Cutscenes are particularly well done. In contrast, the voice acting and audio is hit or miss. Stiller will manage to wrangle a chuckle out of most players, yet his canned comedic delivery is often awkward and unwieldy.
Exploring your way across numerous museums puts you in the path of giant skeletal dinosaurs, spear-toting Egyptian warriors, infamous villains like Al Capone and Napoleon, and other perils to overcome. Each museum offers a unique setting to investigate, and there are tons of collectibles to hunt down in between the mostly linear objectives. Though the game is clearly designed to be accessible for younger players, the level of hand holding in Battle of the Smithsonian is incessant. A circular halo appears at each location youre meant to go to next (its also marked on your map), and dialogue cues crop up regularly to ensure theres absolutely no chance of you getting turned around. Youre free to explore at your own pace to collect items and complete minor side missions, but its hard not to feel constantly corralled forward to keep on with the main plot.