Reviewed: November 9, 2008
Released: November 4, 2008
The original Madagascar game, also developed by Toys for Boy would seem like a hard act to follow. I reviewed that game for the original Xbox back in May of 2005 and it scored a 9.1 and now we have a new next-gen system, three more years of technology, and a new movie to inspire even more creative gameplay. I have yet to see the film sequel but if it’s half as good as the game we should all be in for a real treat.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa picks up where the original left off, with our favorite animal quartet (Alex, Marty, Gloria, and Melman) preparing to leave Madagascar. As you may remember, that big cargo ship the penguins hijacked was out of gas and going nowhere so everybody (including the lemurs) pitched in to get that crashed cargo plane back in operational order for a flight back to New York. Naturally, we wouldn’t have much of a movie (or a game) if everything went smoothly, so the plane obviously crashes before it can even clear the continent and our heroes are launched into all sorts of misadventures in the “real wild” of Africa.
The videogame does an amazing job of capturing all the adventure, humor, and charming characters from the film and recreating those adventures as well as expanding into new territory the movie can't cover. Escape 2 Africa borrows from multiple genres including platforming, adventure, action, and even a bit of penguin-stealth espionage to create a multifaceted game that will delight young and old alike.
There are so many things to do in Escape 2 Africa that it’s hard to imagine a single tutorial could even get you started, but King Julian does his best as he leads Alex, then Marty, then the rest of the characters through their various instructional levels where you will learn to run, jump, kick, dive, swim, and perform several character specific functions. At first, the game design dictates which characters you play, but later when the game opens up, you are free to switch between your characters at totems to explore specific sections of Africa and complete unique objectives. Often, you will see something while playing as one character that you will need to revisit as another.
Mastering the opening tutorials will not only finish the work on the plane, it will also get you launched and headed back to New York, although the trip is cut short when you are forced to make a crash landing in Africa, which is where the bulk of the game takes place. It is here that each character will find their own challenges, both physical and psychological. Alex is quickly reunited with his father and must seek his approval and acceptance into the pride, while Gloria finds herself the target of a very aggressive and amorous ladies man…err...hippo. Melman finds that all giraffes are sickly and with his extensive medical experience (as a patient) sets up his own medical practice, and Marty…well Marty is just content to hang out with a herd of his own kind.
Meanwhile, the penguins set about repairing the plane, which starts with you locating a bunch of monkeys to do all the work. This leads to one of the more interesting collection quests in the game, as you must scour the levels in search of one hundred monkeys, some of which are hiding underwater wearing scuba gear. There is so much to do that it often seems you are playing about five smaller games that all tie into one another, but it is so seamless you never can spot the division lines.
You have traditional platforming elements with jumping and climbing and rappelling down vines and ropes. Melman not only does his trademark helicopter move, he now balances on giant boulders and can roll around some pretty cool levels. Gloria has some awesome underwater adventures as she explores a massive cave system full of crocs, and she also has to contend with Moto-Moto and his hippo harem. You'll even get to play as the cute and cuddly Mort.
And behind all of the core story gameplay lies some of the best mini-games to make their way into one of this movie-inspired games in a long time. First and foremost is the best mini-golf game ever packed into a game. I’m serious; this could be a standalone game if it had more holes, and Toys for Bob should definitely consider doing something like this for Xbox Live Arcade. Every hole in the game is an adventure in and of itself.
Jungle Chess throws out the rules of conventional chess and plays more like a game of Stratego, where each piece has a number value and specific rules for movement and who can capture who. I found the game a bit odd at first, but once I was quested to beat the game on Sun-Tzu difficulty (it’s amazing what I will put myself through for 15 achievement points) I really got into the whole strategy of the game.
There are many other mini-games, most inspired by challenges within the main game like soccer, musical chairs, racing, hot durian (hot potato), high diving, dancing, and many others. Most of the games support up to four players, so there is a lot of family fun to be had when you aren’t plugging away at the main story mode.
Escape 2 African doesn’t disappoint with the graphics, which truly show off the next-gen capabilities of the 360. The colors and textures leap off the screen and prepare yourself for the best water (above and below the surface) you’ve seen in a game like this in a long time. Often we judge games by how well they can recreate reality, but in this case it is important to communicate the look and feel of the film and Toys for Bob does this flawlessly with exotic level designs loaded with detail.
In the audio department we have a solid soundtrack with great music from the film, or at least inspired by it, as well as plenty of original music to accompany all the humorous gameplay antics. You have exciting music for the car chase sequence then some really suspenseful music for the Penguin Caper mission. The voice acting is pulled off effortlessly with some great sound-alikes, especially for the Penguins. The main characters all sound similar to the actors that portray them in the film with the exception of Marty. Finding somebody to impersonate Chris Rock seems to be about as hard as finding somebody to do Eddie Murphy for his Shrek Donkey role, but any inconsistencies will go unnoticed by the target age group.
Escape 2 Africa isn’t a massive game to get through but it can take a great deal of time to thoroughly complete the adventure. I spent two solid 5-hour sessions to finish the story mode, which also consisted of me going back to a few previous levels in an attempt to earn some outlandish achievements like knocking down 50 road signs during the jeep chase or bubbling all the crocs in the underwater caves. I have yet to find all those stinking monkeys but with 50 achievement points at stake, you can be sure I won’t give up until every last chimp is back in captivity.
Achievement points are awarded for all sorts of things including completing the various sections and chapters of the game, but most are awarded for very specific and challenging objectives you will have to really work toward. I was impressed just how many of these are targeted to the mini-games. Those seeking to get 100% completion will enjoy a coin and monkey counter for each level and section so you know where to go back and explore.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a great game for kids, teens, parents…heck…everybody is going to love this game. I literally couldn’t put it down for five hours until I absolutely had to go to bed and then it was the first thing I played when I woke up until I finished it. It’s relaxing and challenging while offering a great sense of style, humor, and the game complements the film without relying on it. This could have easily been a standalone project. I highly recommend for anyone with kids or those who are just a kid at heart.