Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Review for Nintendo DS

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Review for Nintendo DS

Escape…From this Game

I’m not really big on the animated movie scene these days, but I watch the local news enough to know when a big family film comes around. Madagascar 2 has done well at the box office, and with a popular movie a partner game is pretty much a no-brainer. Madagascar 2 might be a good movie, but the tie-in DS game Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is not a good game.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa screenshot

There are so many problems with Escape 2 Africa that it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. Escape 2 Africa is plagued my just about every problem a licensed game could have. From a weak story to boring gameplay and horrendous level design, it’s tough to find anything good about this title.

I suppose that Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was designed with those who are familiar with the series very much in mind. Why do I say this? Because the plot is horribly confusing — and this is a kid’s game we’re talking about. Actually, the story isn’t so much confusing as it’s just nonexistent. There’s a short cutscene at the beginning of the game about a crazy monkey king, some weird penguins, and a broken plane that needs to be fixed. And with that scant background, you’re off on a typically boring fetch-quest adventure.

The structure of Escape 2 Africa is very simple; the game is divided up into worlds, which in turn consist of a few different levels. Most levels have you controlling one of four characters: Marty the Zebra, Alex the Lion, Melman the Giraffe, and Gloria the Hippo, each with their own “distinct” set of attacks and jumping abilities. For example, Marty can double-jump, while Melman can hover in the air for short periods of time after jumping.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa screenshot

Potentially, this mild difference in skills could have given rise to at least a little bit of variation in Escape 2 Africa. For example, being able to select the character to use on each stage would be really neat, because then you’d have to pick based on what obstacles you find in the level. It still would have been pretty shallow, but it’s better than the actual situation, in which each level is custom-tailored to the character that you’re required to use.

Attacks are even worse, because there’s literally no variety. Sure, the animations that appear on-screen vary a little bit from character to character, but tapping the X button is literally all you need to do to take out all of the pathetically weak enemies you’ll encounter throughout the game. There’s no need for special timing or stringing together combos with other buttons. It’s a ridiculously boring system and even in a game that’s geared toward children, there’s no real excuse for this crazy lack of intricacy.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa screenshot

The individual levels themselves only contribute to the problems. Escape 2 Africa is essentially a side-scrolling 3D game, where the path might wind a bit and the camera keeps up. The fact that the levels are so linear, however, is a big drawback. There are no real secrets or hidden areas to these levels, and you’ll just traipse through collecting coins and beating up enemies — from little hedgehogs to humans with cameras. It’s not fun, and because all the levels feel so similar, this game gets very old very quickly.

While the camera performs well for the most part, there are some areas in which it screws up in a big way. For example, in one segment I had to jump over to a platform to hit a switch and then jump back to continue along the path. Well, the camera doesn’t turn around just because you’re walking backwards, so I was left trying to pull off a “blind jump,” where I’m attempting to land on a platform that I can’t even see. Instances like this aren’t particularly common, but when they do occur they’re immensely annoying.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa screenshot

Dying is not a big deal, because this game is pathetically easy. When you do die it’s usually because of a quirk like the one I’ve already mentioned with the camera. Enemies are absolute pushovers, and you’ll never really get stuck because the game is so linear and there are no real puzzles. Even if you do happen to die, you’ll just reload from the latest checkpoint, which are generously placed throughout the level.

Graphically, Escape 2 Africa is a decent package. Cutscenes are few and far between but look nice, and the in-game graphics are also pretty good. The music is a bit lacking, but to my surprise there was some voice acting during the cutscenes. Again, it was nothing great, but I supposed it served the purpose of connecting the game with the movie.

Overall, I was unimpressed with Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. It failed to do anything new with the licensed game model and was instead content to just churn out the same basic game we get with most movies these days. The more licensed games I play, the more I really want to see a developer take a movie and turn it into a high quality title. After all, there’s enough creativity to make a good movie, so why not use some of those juices to make a good game?, Escape 2 Africa is not worth a purchase. It’s a bland, boring side-scrolling game full of repetitive combat, bad level design, and lacks any real challenge.

Animations are smooth, backgrounds are nice, and the cutscenes are well-done. 2.3 Control
The controls get the job done, but they’re ridiculously simplified. Having just one attack button is a serious drawback. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is lacking, but the game’s cutscenes are voiced-over, which was nice. 2.2

Play Value
Escape 2 Africa is a fairly short game with little reason to replay any of the levels. It’s ridiculously easy and just not much fun.

2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Your favorite characters from Madagascar return and you can play them all! In addition to Alex, Marty, Gloria, and Melman, you also get to play as the crafty penguins, the wacky King Julien and new hippo character Moto Moto!
  • Experience the characters, settings, and situations established in Dreamworks Animation’s new Madagascar movie. Unique new environments include the Watering Hole, a free roaming area that’s been expanded for the game, the volcano, and the plane wreck.
  • Explore a variety of different levels as you attempt to save the savannah.

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