Platform, Collect, Repeat
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is the latest movie to draw inspiration from a beloved children’s book. While the movie has been getting rave reviews for its cute and comedic storyline, the video game based on the movie doesn’t really knock it out of the park in the same way. Still, despite being a game based on a movie based on a book, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs does manage to do some things right.
The game opens with a basic overview of the movie’s plot. Flint Lockwood, a crazy inventor, lives in a boring town where nobody visits, and life is fairly boring. So of course, to attract new visitors (and hopefully invigorate the town’s residents, Lockwood creates the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (or F.L.D.S.M.D.F.R., for short). Though his invention has certainly brought national interest to the town, its unpredictable nature has also brought a fair share of chaos to the town as well.
The opening plot scene sets the stage for the rest of the game and is presented like an old 8-bit videogame, complete with pixel-based animations and 8-bit sound. Although the game’s young audience may not fully appreciate the retro-cool style of the game’s plot scenes, older gamers who play this title with younger gamers definitely will.
Outside the plot scenes, the game’s visuals look like standard movie-licensed fare. Characters look a lot like their cinema counterparts, and environments try to replicate the world of the movie without too much detail. Although the game’s visuals are very cheerful and colorful, they contain many repetitious elements, which do make the game’s world seem a little boring. For instance, an early level contains a small blue storefront that is repeated many times throughout that level and others. This type of visual replication is annoying, but I can’t say it’s not entirely expected in a movie licensed game.
Although the visuals are adequate, the actual gameplay is quite fun, especially for little kids who enjoyed the movie. The gameplay is a lot like the Ratchet and Clank series, and is centered on the use of Lockwood’s crazy gadgets to get through each level. These gadgets range from a heat ray that melts ice cream to a veggie chopper that can hack through thick forests of broccoli. Each weapon that you encounter can be upgraded once (provided you get enough points upon completion of each level), and once you max out all your weapons you are then able to built an “ultimate” weapon at the end of the game. Although this ultimate weapon is not necessary for beating the game, older kids will definitely appreciate the optional challenge.
The collection quests do add quite a bit of replay value to the game, but even with those added in, the experience in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is still very short. Most young kids will be able to blast through the title in 4 or 5 hours, and older kids will probably only need half that time. Although I realize there isn’t much content that can be mined from an 80 minute movie, parents thinking about purchasing this game for their kids should know that the game’s $50 MSRP will only net them an afternoon or two of enjoyment.
One feature of the game that kids will find appealing is the drop-in co-op. Every level of the game can be played with two players, and there is no need to activate a special mode. Better still is the fact that the co-op is fully functional. While other games like Monsters vs. Aliens have a co-op mode where the other player basically controls a pointer to gather extra points, the second player in this title actually controls a second character, complete with gadgets to use and fully functional controls. The only disadvantage the second player has is that the camera is fixed on the first player, so it is easy for the second player to get lost if the first player is running ahead.
Although the game looks satisfactory and plays well, one aspect that definitely could have used a little extra care is the sound. The game’s soundtrack is very repetitive and the theme music loop is far too short. The character voiceovers are also very repetitive, and the main character only says one or two level-specific lines over and over again, which can become very annoying. The best part of the sound in this title has to be the 8-bit tunes, which really only work if you have nostalgic feelings towards old game music. But aside from the short plot scene music, it is best to keep the sound on this game turned down.
There are several things to like about the video game adaptation of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The fun 8-bit plot scenes and gadget based levels offer kids plenty of fun gameplay, and the option of co-op play and collection quests make this an easy choice for older kids to really get into. However, the short gameplay time and repetitive vocal and graphical elements of the title make it a bit hard to recommend at a $50 price point. If you know little kids who enjoyed the movie, this title is definitely worth a rental and will keep them amused for a few afternoons. Just don’t expect giant meatballs of gameplay.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
The game replicates the look of the movie fairly accurately, although levels have a repetitious design. 4.1 Control
Controls are incredibly simplistic (you only really use two buttons), which is perfect for a kid’s game. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Level soundtrack is imbalanced and voiceover is repetitive and annoying. 3.0 Play Value
The levels are repetitive, and the game is short, but additional collection quests give it some replay value. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.