Reviewed: November 10, 2006
Released: October 24, 2006
True to form, the folks at DreamWorks and Activision have seen it in their infinite wisdom to release a second movie tie-in to accompany the DVD release of the blockbuster animated hit Over the Hedge. And just as they did with last year’s Madagascar, the second game is based entirely on a secondary movie character – last year it was Madagascar’s penguins, this year it’s Over The Hedge’s Hammy the hyperactive squirrel.
Last week, we reviewed the DS version of Over the Hedge: Hammy Goes Nuts and we found the dual-screened adventure platformer to be a bit ho-hum. This week we got our hands around the GBA version of the game, and while it is not a whole lot better in the ho-hum department, it is surprising at how completely different the two games are – and I mean completely different.
The DS version of Hammy Goes Nuts is a 3D adventure-platformer, right? It would be natural for a reviewer to expect that the GBA version would simply be a dumbed-down version of it’s higher-powered brethren, right?
That is why I was completely shocked to find out that Hammy Goes Nuts on the GBA is a, gasp, miniature golfing game. No kidding, people. And I am not talking about one or two levels of golfing interspersed with some action missions – I mean the entire game is a series of levels that use the miniature golf mechanic to accomplish goals.
If miniature golf sounds cool to you, well – the GBA version of Hammy really is kind of cool in its own way. There are about two dozen relatively large levels in which Hammy and crew can rearrange boxes, trash bags, stones, and other neighborhood items, in an attempt to set up the perfect line and finish with a par or below-par hole.
While many levels have traditional pin-and-flag structure of golf, or miniature golf, most of the levels in Hammy have some objective that must be met – smash all the garden gnomes, break all the boxes, etc.. Some levels even utilize the mechanics of pinball – bumpers, flippers, and all – with objective placed within that must be smashed. The physics behind the game are fairly sound – the balls react realistically to incident and reflective angles and it all accurately accounts for speed.
Really, the biggest thing that drags Hammy Goes Nuts down into the sand trap of mediocrity is that there is nothing else to do on the cartridge other than play a variant of miniature golf. After a half hour or so, you begin to realize that you are doing the same old thing over and over again, and whatever charm the gameplay had is quickly lost.
Also, on some of the larger levels it takes a terrible long time to reposition all the boxes, rotate all the walls, and line up all the shots. The killer is that if you feel the need to take a stab at getting the “Super Par” hole-in-one rating (each hole has a fairly obvious shot line that can get a hole-in-one) and you happen to fudge up the shot by misjudging your shooting angle or hitting some distant windmill blade, if you want to try the shot over you literally have to fully reload the level and start over from square one with repositioning the boxes, rotating the walls, etc.. At least the game could have included a mulligan feature to make things a bit more fun.
Visually, the game is slightly above average for a GBA title. The entire game is viewed from the same isometric camera angle, and all that can be seen on the screen is only about ten percent of the each level. By pressing the right bumper, the view goes to a binocular mode and the gamer can pan around to see the remaining portions of the environment.
The levels include both outdoor and indoor settings, but within each there is not a whole lot of variety – items and objects are repeated many times over, which does not do much to help alleviate the repetitive gameplay.
Oh, how these 30-second looping audio tracks eat away at me – and when the gameplay is this repetitive, it really doesn’t help matters out. Let’s just say I had to turn the sound off after about 20 minutes and it didn’t affect the game play in any way, for better or for worse.
If there is one thing the game really has going for it, it’s that it is a cool take on the sport of miniature golf and there are an absolute ton of levels to be played and mastered. Each level can be played in a number of different modes – career, arcade, challenge – but the core gameplay in any of the modes is the same, so playing any of the modes feels just like the others.
My five year old daughter unlocked 19 levels in the first hour of play – granted, she was hit holing out with scores of +23 (and I do mean +23 per hole…), but c’mon, I nearly had to reset the save file just so I could get a good idea of the pacing in the career mode.
It really is pretty cool that Activision, Vicarious Visions and DreamWorks came up with this idea of using putt-putt golf for this latest release – it is a cute concept, and it is functionally fine. It only stinks that the gameplay becomes a blur of tedious monotony after such a short period of time.
If you were to ask my five-year-old daughter, Mieke, she would tell you that the game was really cool and a lot of fun. But then again, she doesn’t quite grasp the concept how her +23 does not beat out my +3, so you have to take her recommendation with a grain of salt.