Reviewed: September 14, 2005
Released: August 16, 2005
Disney's insanely popular kid's show Lizzie McGuire has all the components for a successful show wrapped up in it; it's half live action and half animated, giving it the appeal of real life characters as well as a cartoon world, stars Hilary Duff with all of her girl-next-door appeal, and carries the force of Disney behind it. With that kind of recipe for success, it's no wonder that Lizzie McGuire would have her very own video game, or series of them.
In Lizzie McGuire 3 Homecoming Havoc, Lizzie decides to go up against the snotty popular girl at her school for the coveted position of Homecoming Queen. (Oh, the drama!) Play your way through over one hundred micro games and a series of dance contests to make Lizzie's dream come true, and be crowned Homecoming Queen.
In Homecoming Havoc, players will play through ten levels of micro-games as Lizzie McGuire (duh) in order to become Homecoming Queen. There are several types of micro-games offered here; there's Multi-Tap, where you must tap the A button or Control Pad as rapidly as you can. Rapid tap, where you must simply tap A as fast as you can. Time tap, where you must press A at the right moment. Aim it, where you must in fact aim, and fire. Avoid it, where Lizzie must be moved around to avoid something. Counterbalance, where left and right are pressed on the control pad in order to keep the object on the screen from falling over. In Motion, where Lizzie avoids obstacles (sounds suspiciously like Avoid it...) Multi-Move, where Lizzie must be moved with the control pad while avoiding obstacles (okay...didn't I just say that?) And then there is Hodgepodge, which can be just about any type of game. Did you get all that?
And there is the first problem with Homecoming Havoc; redundancy and confusion. Some of the micro-games make it obvious to the player what is supposed to be done on screen. When somebody at the jeans store starts throwing clothes at Lizzie, move her to avoid them. Okay, that's easy enough. But when Lizzie finds herself down in a sewer somehow, (and this will make her Homecoming Queen, how?) I found myself confused as to what to do. Do I try to avoid the puddles on the ground, or the drops of water seeping through the ceiling?
When the game tells me that I'm supposed to "Do It!" I'm still equally confused. Do what? Why not just say plainly what I, the player, am supposed to do? This happened a little too often. For instance, when I found myself staring down at a screen with a piece of pizza on it, and nothing happening, I failed to win the game. What was I supposed to do? And when exactly was I supposed to do it?
Most of the rest of the time, the micro-games are pointlessly easy, and in turn, no fun at all. There is a game where Lizzie is slowly floating down from the sky. In the lower right-hand corner, there is a target. I pressed the right side of the control pad, and Lizzie slowly floated to the target, and the game ended. Okay, it's a freebie, right? Nope. Many of the games are like this.
Now, I am aware that a Lizzie McGuire game is going to be aimed at younger girls, but not toddler age young. Why, when I was that age, I was sliding around dangerously on ice in world six of Super Mario Bros. 3 (without using a warp whistle, thank you very much), carefully avoiding goombas and cliffs, not just pressing a single button to accomplish the obvious and impossible to miss. These kids these days, with their Lizzie McGuire games, their free Disney channels, and their...
Still, there is a dance off at the end of each level. Think Parappa The Rapper. Whenever an arrow moves along the bottom of the screen, press the control pad in that direction at the right time. It's probably the most fun Lizzie McGuire has to offer. Nothing terribly original, but fun, because it is obvious what must be done, there is a bit of a challenge to it, and it's not over before it even starts, like many of the other micro-games presented in Homecoming Havoc. Depending on how well you do in the dance off, you will earn tokens, which you may purchase. These are your get out of jail free cards, as they will win you one round of a game that you have lost. Not that they are necessary, unless this game is the very first video game you've ever set eyes on. This game is that simple.
Poorly designed levels that cause confusion, and overly simplistic gameplay are the culprits that made this game a bit difficult to review. Every time I picked it up to play, I found my mind wandering, thinking of all the more fun and productive things I could be doing. At one point, I even set the game back down and did dishes. I was that bored. Then again, I'm not a big Lizzie McGuire fan, having gone through puberty and all, so maybe Lizzie McGuire fans will have fun with Homecoming Havoc. But they'll probably grow out of it in about fifteen minutes.
It goes without saying that the animated side of Lizzie McGuire is what we see in Homecoming Havoc. And it does look like the cartoon; not really a hard thing to accomplish, considering Lizzie McGuire's look is pretty much the squiggly, early nineties Nickelodean style animation. Still, Lizzie looks like Lizzie, in all of her disproportionate, simplistic glory, and while she doesn't move much, (Most of the graphics are still shots) what counts is that her fans will recognize her as Lizzie.
Colors are vibrant and bright, and for a GBA game, Homecoming Havoc looks pretty decent. Still, there is a bit too much simplicity in this department, mostly due to the fact that many of the micro-games are not only poorly designed when it comes to gameplay, but also when it comes to looks. Most of the time, the screen is a single color, with one item displayed revolving around the game.
For example, there is a micro game where the player must tap the A button as quickly as possible to make Lizzie devour a piece of pizza as quickly as she can. We don't actually see Lizzie at all in this game, just a single piece of pizza on a blank background. There is just something very boring about a piece of pizza on a blank blue screen. Would it have been too difficult to show Lizzie with the pizza in her hand, hungrily devouring the pizza as the player frantically taps the A button? Basically, Homecoming Havoc looks all right. It's passable, as I have seen worse looking games. Still, there wasn't a whole lot of thought or creativity put into it, and it does unfortunately show.
I have one word for Homecoming Havoc's music: bizarre. The first song we hear sounds as though it was ripped right from the old Tetris games. Immediately I was reminded of the mind numbingly addictive and incredibly frustrating puzzle game from my childhood, way back when Game Boys weighed roughly 6 pounds, and were as bulky as can be. The song didn't exactly fit, as I'm sure you can imagine. As I continuously tapped the A button to paint Lizzie's nails as fast as I could, I realized just what a bizarre fit the old puzzle music was to a simple micro-mini game.
The track did change eventually, and I was surprised to learn that for a GBA game, there is a decent amount of music on the soundtrack. None of it was too bad, neither annoying or repetitive, except for the Tetris track, which oddly enough, brought me back to my childhood.
Other than music there are the standard cartoony sound effects, such as tweetie bird chirpings when someone gets hit in the head with an object, or the canned applause when you succeed at the game, as well as the disappointed chorus of voices saying, "awww," when you do lose. Nothing outstanding, just sort of there.
At first glance, it would seem that Homecoming Havoc has tons of replay value. A game with hundreds of micro-games, bonus levels, and dance offs would seem like a pretty decent load of things to do in a GBA game. However, it doesn't take long to realize that in reality, there are only a handful of different types of games to play, only with slightly different staging each time. Developers could have gotten away with that, had the setting and design of the games been better in the first place, but since they weren't, Homecoming Havoc wears noticeably thin very quickly.
Also, since the games are ridiculously easy (once you figure out what you are even supposed to do) the lack of even the slightest challenge makes the game even less valuable. After an hour or less of gameplay, Lizzie is the homecoming queen and then what? You certainly won't want to play these games over and over again, because they are redundant, too simple even for its target audience, and overall just plain under whelming. You would be better off saving your money for another game.
Lizzie McGuire 3: Homecoming Havoc serves one purpose; to appease fans of the show. So, if you don't regularly tune into the Disney channel to check out all the melodrama of preteen life on Lizzie McGuire, then there is absolutely no reason for you to play this game. If you are a fan though, I wouldn't expect too much from what Homecoming Havoc has to offer. It was a good idea that was sloppily put together, and the result is a repetitive, overly simple game that doesn't have a whole lot to offer. But if you love Lizzie McGuire, and you love micro-games, maybe you'll enjoy it. Maybe. Just don't say I didn't warn you.