Good for a Giggle
Generally, licensed video games come with somewhat of a stigma in the minds of gamers who automatically expect them to suck. That’s because, quite frankly, a lot of them do, souring the reputation of quality titles attached to large film franchises. In the case of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, the game offers a lot of variety for those looking for a lighthearted children’s title while still seeming like somewhat of a cash-grab in the process. Though children probably won’t care about its negative aspects, grown-ups looking for a kid’s game with fun and lighthearted objectives may not be so keen on Escape 2 Africa.
The game boasts a party spirit with upbeat tribal music and a bright aesthetic to keep things festive as you navigate through menus. While playing the story mode and other various mini-games, you’ll find yourself in exotic locations controlling cute-voiced characters from the film. While none of the actual cast members lend their voices to the game, characters sound a lot like who they’re supposed to. The game stars Julien the lemur who narrates the story mode and instructs you on all of the tasks you’ll have to complete playing as the main characters from the movie. He’s voiced by someone who sounds almost identical to Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), and Marty the zebra is voiced by ex-Mad TV comedian Phil Lamarr who does his best Chris Rock impersonation. The result is some excellent voiceover work that will keep the kiddies entertained and may even cause a chuckle or two from even desensitized, mature game-lovers such as myself. The script is well written and comments from Julien as you navigate through menus and complete tasks in story mode add lightheartedness to this party game that certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously.
On the surface, Escape 2 Africa does a good job of bringing the family-friendly aesthetics and party spirit of the Wii to the PS2. Africa Arcade is definitely Wii-oriented with ten mini-games including soccer, musical chairs, mini-golf, jungle chess, and such. Though party games have been wildly popularized by the Wii in recent years, the appeal has spread to other consoles and this is where Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa bites itself in the big, fluffy behind.
With a game so obviously intended for the Wii, unfortunately, things don’t always translate well to other consoles, and more specifically, the PS2. The large targets for your menu selections are obviously intended for those using a Wii-mote and the game boasts graphics equivalent to what you would expect from the Wii. But the biggest factor that hurts this title is the fact that many of the objectives simply aren’t fun when completing them on the PS2. While the story mode will have you carrying out a wide variety of objectives, puzzles, and problems, many tasks involve flinging items and hitting targets that simply isn’t as functional with the PS2. In fact, the game is transitioned so loosely to this console that it doesn’t even utilize rumbling at all. Though the game features ten mini-games in the Africa Arcade, you probably won’t find much use for them. The mechanics in games such as Soccer are absolutely atrocious, and games such as Hot Durian (hot potato) are simply not fun, as you repeatedly tap one button to pass the object back to your partner. If it can’t hold an adults attention long enough to last more than one try, I doubt it could hold the attention of a child, no matter how much he or she loves the Madagascar gang.
Playing through the story features the same types of mini-challenges, but they’re not all bad. You’ll travel across platforms and through obstacle courses with various characters such as Alex the lion, which can be enjoyable. Also, there is a lot of variety in the types of tasks you’ll have to complete as well.
The use of several different characters with their own unique abilities adds some variety to the game too. Nothing tends to be overly challenging, which can be a problem found in many children’s games featuring wickedly complex mazes and poorly-explained objectives. Though some of the mini-games can be boring, they’re short enough that you’ll move onto the next one in no time. Unlockables are found in the Duty Free Store, where you can purchase different apparel, video clips, and bonus features for the mini-games including bonus golf holes and music tracks.
There are simply too many factors that make Escape 2 Africa feel more like an afterthought on the PS2 than an attempt to bring an original concept to the market. Moreover, promotional tools are riddled throughout the game; one of the four main features on the opening menu is a preview for another Dreamworks game. If it were tucked away in a bonus videos section as opposed to directly on main menu with Options, Begin Story, and Africa Arcade selections, their marketing ploy may not have been as noticeable.
Though functionality isn’t one of its strong points, the game’s major saving graces are its humorous cutscenes and voiceover work, namely that of Julien. The variety of challenges offered in story mode will keep kids busy for weeks. While Escape 2 Africa is not altogether innovative and it is obvious the game was designed to work better on the Wii, it does have its moments of fun and can be very entertaining at times. And when it comes to a children’s title, what more can you really ask for?
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
Bright environments and nice-looking characters are enjoyable, while not entirely impressive. 2.0 Control
Controls are loosely translated to the PS2; obviously developed for Wii usage, making a lot of mini-games uninteresting and absolutely useless. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is upbeat and festive, albeit repetitive with time. Excellent voiceover work adds humor to this lighthearted children’s game. 2.7 Play Value
Fans of Madagascar will enjoy character involvement in the game and its humorous script. Poor control setups make mini-games and objectives in story mode dull and repetitive. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.