It Has a Giant Booger Monster
Every Summer the kids get stir crazy in the house, and Hollywood, recognizing that American parents are willing to spend great amounts of money to get their kids out of the house (if for only a few hours), releases new kids movies onto the market like clockwork. And of course, it wouldn’t be a big Summer movie without the traditional movie game tie-in.
Shorts for the Nintendo DS is an adaptation of Robert Rodriguez’s wish fulfillment-themed motion picture that features kids seeing their wildest dreams come true thanks to a magical multi-colored rock that falls from the sky.
The core gameplay of Shorts is that of a rather traditional platformer. Players guide the character throughout the level jumping to platforms, avoiding obstacles, and solving light puzzles. The puzzles aren’t too difficult though, and most of them will be solved almost automatically as you progress through the level hitting switches and gathering keys. Most of the time you just step on a switch then head to the area it opened up, get a key, and then open the door that has a lock the same color as the key. There’s not much to impede your progress as far as level design is concerned.
However, there are definitely hordes of enemies blocking your path, though most levels only contain two enemy variants. Nevertheless, these enemies provide a sufficient challenge for reaching your end goal.
The platforming gameplay is well executed, and controls are responsive enough to keep you engaged, but a big problem arises for this game: the huge lack of variety. Every level is essentially the exact same as the last. There are only a few different obstacles that they’ll throw at you, and by the time you reach the midway point in the first level, you’ve seen just about everything this game has to offer.
The monotony is broken up a bit by the differing special abilities of each of the characters you’ll play in each level. You’ll play as four different characters from the film, and each of them has a signature ability which aids in reaching new heights and platforms. The highlight of these definitely has to be the huge Pterodactyl that pops up to lift Loogie upward.
One theme that Shorts explores is something that a number of other games have implemented. By using the touch screen, players can use an ability that allows them to draw new platforms for the player to jump onto in order to progress through the level. As it is, this breaks up the monotony a bit, but it is tragically underused. Rather than forcing the player to come up with ever more imaginative means of using this feature to advance, the feature is essentially used for two different things, and that’s about it.
The boss fights are a mixed bag. They’re kind of fun, but they really only serve to offer new window dressing for the mechanics you’ve been using the entire game. The first boss, for instance, is a giant booger monster. This probably sounds great if you’re a kid, but the reality is much more boring. Essentially, it’s just another version of the levels you’ve just completed, only with a background of a booger monster. You don’t even interact with the monster. He doesn’t hit you directly, and you don’t hit him. He just stands there, sneezing smaller snot monsters onto the level. In the mean time, you have to jump to high platforms and hit switches to lower electrodes near his head, and then you turn on the electricity (by stepping on another switch) to fry him. Repeat two more times and it’s over. Take away the picture of the monster in the back and all you’re doing is stepping on switches, which is really all you do in the preceding levels.
Graphically, the game is probably a little better than what you might expect. They’re not exactly great, but given the fact that this is not just a movie tie-in game but a budget-priced movie tie-in game, the 3-D backgrounds are perhaps more than most would ask for. The main problem here – in keeping with the rest of the game – is that there just aren’t enough art assets involved. There are multiple stages in each level, and every single one is essentially a simple rearranging of the last. The look gets extremely boring after a while, and you’ll start to yearn for a change of pace after only a few levels.
In terms of audio, what’s here is passable. The sound effects are all spot on, and the music accompanying each level is better than most DS games. However, the narrator who explains the different techniques of each character and walks you through the tutorial is not good at all. It will actually surprise you with how bad it is. Maybe it’s bad form to harp on a child actor for a spot of bad acting, but the voice-overs sound like they made him read the lines one after another off cue cards, (no comma) and never even did a second take. It’s bad enough that any adult will probably laugh out loud a bit when hearing it.
On the plus side though, kids will enjoy being able to play as characters from the movie. However, these characters are sorely lacking in personality and flavor. Aside from their one special ability, they’re all really the same. All of the great personality that goes into bringing the film characters to life is all gone when they’re on the DS.
As I mentioned though, this is a budget-priced title, and $20 doesn’t get you too far on any gaming system let alone a portable one. The fact is, this is a fundamentally sound game that, at the very least, lasts a long time and will provide respite from a considerable amount of boredom. And isn’t that what a budget-priced portable movie game should be all about? If you’re a parent, you just want something that will keep your kid busy in the back seat, and if you’re a kid, you just want something to do when you’re sitting in the lobby of the dentist’s office. This game accomplishes that, and it does so without any frustrating or specifically boring content, and for that it deserves at least faint praise.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Better than you would expect from a budget-priced DS game. Visuals are a bit grainy, but three dimensional backgrounds give it a little more panache than one might expect. 4.0 Control
The controls do their job just fine. Manipulating the character is a breeze, and complex platforming elements are never hindered. 2.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects and music are all pretty good. The music in particular fits quite well. Really bad voice work from the narrator brings you out of the experience. 2.8
It’s a simple title, but one that befits its low price of $20. As a cheap title that will keep the kids busy during car rides and trips to the bank, Shorts serves its purpose but nothing more.
2.6 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.