Reviewed: November 5, 2002
Released: October 15, 2002
With the unprecedented success of the animated flick, Shrek it’s no wonder that everyone is scrambling to get their game tie-ins created and out to the gaming public before this little green engine loses its steam. A few Shrek games have already released and more are on the way for a variety of systems. Shrek: Hassle at the Castle is TDK’s offering for the Game Boy Advance and is easily the best of the handheld Shrek games currently available.
Hassle at the Castle follows all the standard rules and conventions for platform games. The side-scrolling format works very well for the GBA and the overall design of the game has been tightly integrated into the movie script. While the game glosses over certain sections of the film and adds new levels entirely, there is plenty here for anyone who enjoyed the movie.
All of your favorite scenes from the movie have been turned into exciting gameplay. You start off as Shrek and must rid your swamp of the fairy-tale creatures. Moving on, you will free Donkey from the guards opening him up as a playable character. Head to the castle and fight Lord Faarquad’s not-so-elite guards then head to the dark castle where the Princess Fiona is being held captive by the dragon. Even Fiona becomes a playable character with her own hilarious level based on the scene in the movie where she blows-up a bluebird by hitting a high note.
You’ll eventually get to play as all three of the main characters, each with their own abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Gameplay ranges from typical side-scrolling fighting action to the stuff found in more advanced platform titles. Everything starts off easy enough but as you near the end of the game you will find the levels quite challenging. I consider myself an above average gamer and the final levels were downright hard, which surprised me considering this is being targeted to the younger crowd.
Control is easy and you do everything with the A, B or combination of both. The combo button press does a character specific special attack, and I was moderately annoyed that this third command wasn’t mapped to one of the available triggers. You have to press both buttons exactly at the same time which made this move harder than it should have been to pull off.
The graphics were the highlight of this title. They are really good; easily PlayStation 1 quality, and the unique character, while surprising at first, really grew on me by the end of the game. Considering the size of most characters in these types of games I really enjoyed the “big head” design style the artists chose to go with.
The level design is really nice with some colorful and detailed backgrounds and fun animated characters. The animation is a bit stilted, but much like South Park, this is what gives it a unique visual flair.
The music and sound are all above average. The music is very nice but the tracks are too short and too few so even with a 4-hour game you will hear the same music over and over to the point where it becomes potentially annoying. The sound effects are all cheerful and fun, as is expected for a game based on a fun and cheerful movie.
Experience gamers will walk all over this title in 3-5 hours while younger kids will spend a day or two. There are 24 levels that increase in challenge, but in the end it is still a simple platform design that anyone can master in a few minutes. There are two difficulty settings and you will definitely want to play at least once more on the advanced setting to see the alternate ending.
To add some extended life there is a 4-player mini-game mode called “Fight”. It reminded me of the “Hungry Hungry Hippo” game where you have four people all trying to get as many coins as possible within a certain time limit. It’s a race to get the available coins and a fighter when you bash your opponent to steal theirs.
This game can be played with only a single copy of the cartridge serving up action for everyone, but this mini-game is much better if everyone playing has their own copy. I’m just happy to see designers finally realizing that everyone shouldn’t be forced to buy a game for occasionally linked gameplay.
Shrek: Hassle at the Castle is a fun, albeit simple game with some of the best graphics I’ve seen in recent GBA releases. The art design is fun and the big heads let you appreciate smaller details that you would otherwise miss on the tiny GBA screen. Overall, this is a delightful game that will appeal to kids and challenging enough to snare the older more experience gamer. If you love Shrek (and who doesn’t) and own a GBA then this is a worthy addition to your library.