Shrek and friends are back for their fourth trip to the big screen, and Activision is picking up the rear with a video-game adaptation for Wii. Can these fairy tale favorites bring happily ever after into your home, or are you better off saving your popcorn money for a later showing?
Shrek Forever After is a light action adventure that puts you in control of four of the main characters – Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, and Puss in Boots – from the movie. Shrek has unwittingly signed his life away to Rumpelstiltskin, and you’ll need to renegotiate Shrek’s contract by way of a series of linear gameplay levels.
The dialogue, both during cutscenes, as well as general banter between the characters, is well written and energetically delivered, though the story cleaves to the gameplay with minimum effort. Character stills and conversations will pop up in the middle of gameplay in an awkward fashion, and the cutscenes at the end of most levels get abruptly lopped off. There are a handful of CG movies sprinkled throughout the game, though, that add a nice touch to the overall presentation.
The journey begins with a quick tutorial, and players are led by the nose throughout most of the adventure. Shrek Forever After incorporates use of both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and controls are kept simple. You move your character with the analog stick, mash the A button to execute combos, and each character has a special move that can distract or stun enemies for a short time.
Levels are mapped out in a way similar to Fable or Overlord: Dark Legend, leading you along mostly narrow paths with just one way of reaching your goal. Various obstacles and puzzles are placed in your way, which will force you to switch out characters in order to utilize their unique skills. Shrek, of course, can move large crates and other heavy objects; Puss can climb; Donkey can kick doors open or knock things loose; and Fiona is the resident pyromaniac.
Shrek Forever After isn’t a beat’em-up per se, but there are moments when the adventuring comes to a halt so that the gloves can come completely off. You’ll trek down a path, solve a basic puzzle, and ward off a few enemies along the way, but then there are specific throwdowns where you’re forced to take on waves of baddies in arena-style challenges. Though the formula is far from innovative, the game progression has a wonderful ebb and flow to it.
The adventure is absolutely geared toward younger gamers, and to that end, the developers do a splendid job with Shrek Forever After. I only died a couple of times throughout the entire game, and it was mostly due to carelessness on my part. That being said, the gameplay was enjoyable from start to finish, in spite of the challenge being well below par.
If you’re ever at a loss for where to go or what to do next, there’s a large green arrow that’s always pointing you in the direction of your goal. There are a small handful of puzzles that are clever and slightly devious, but for a price, you can hit up the Three Blind Mice for clues.
The game hub is comprised of a small camping village where you can purchase power-ups for your characters. The pickings are slim, but adding increased strength, defense, or enhancing your special abilities is incentive to find all of the treasure chests hidden throughout each level.
Wii waggle does get injected into the game, though it’s slight and usually optional. For instance, you can finish combos with an area attack or collect extra money when opening chests by shaking the Wii Remote. On occasion, you’ll be required to do a bit of wall jumping with Puss by waggling in a specific direction, but there were never any issues with frustrating collision detection.
The main complaint I have with these little additions is that they’re just there. Motion-based gameplay should engage players’ senses. The sounds that are added to Forever After’s Wii-waggle sequences are sedate and uninteresting, making these little bits of gameplay even less than a novelty.
That’s indicative of the whole game, really. Even though the developers merely whip up a brew based entirely on tried-and-true gameplay components, it’s a formula that, at its core, is fun and clever. It’s the little things, however, that are really missed. The lack of attention to detail leaves many of the game’s accomplishments feeling slightly hollow.
Shrek Forever After does get a second wind, however, when played cooperatively with family or friends. Up to three other players can join you on your adventure, jumping in or out of the game at any time. The camera stays fixed on all characters, so you’ll have to work together. It’s a fun set-up, though, and friendly fire allows you to rob coins from one another. There are a few optional puzzles thrown into each level that require at least two players, and hidden extras offer incentive to run through areas more than once.
The production quality is a mixed bag. On the whole, Shrek Forever After is an attractive game, though there are a few unsightly elements littered about. The water effects might look almost next-gen in one level and yet appear unworthy of the N64 somewhere else in the game. The camera during most of the gameplay is pulled back at a slightly overhead perspective, so environmental textures and character models generally look good. When the view pans in close, however, the framerate dips and everything tends to look a bit blocky.
The soundtrack is surprisingly robust, with fitting themes while dungeon crawling as well as popular licensed tunes that kick in during brawling segments. Though I can’t claim to recognize the voices of any of the actors, the performances too are all topnotch. Donkey, especially, gets a ton of great lines, and I found myself spamming his special ability just to hear his interpretations of various nursery rhymes.
Shrek Forever After is a respectable side offering that should satisfy fans of the movie, and it’s also got a fun, little multiplayer component to keep younger gamers going long after the adventure ends. Unfortunately, the adventure ends all too soon. Roughly five or six hours after we’d set out to retract our agreement with Rumpelstiltskin, the party was over. There are no unlockables to speak of, nor extra modes or other gameplay features. Once the tale wraps up, you’re brought back to camp with the option to venture back into the levels you’ve already unlocked. It’s a nice package to enjoy with friends, but as a solo outing, your enjoyment of the game will likely be fleeting.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
There is some nice texture work, and the game has a generally attractive aesthetic. Shrek Forever After also exhibits a number of less than appealing visuals that are oddly blended into the mix. 3.8 Control
Controls are simple and work well for the most part. Character movement is fluid and natural, but Wii waggle is used to flat effect. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Some really cool tunes, solid voice work, and lots of funny commentary. 3.1
It’s a really short adventure with very few trimmings. Multiplayer, however, is a big plus for the game.
3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.