Reviewed: June 4, 2004
Released: May 4, 2004
Shrek has gone down a rocky road when it comes to videogame spin-offs, and the GBA has been the unfortunate recipient for most of them. Hassle at the Castle back in 2002 was probably the last good Shrek title to hit the GBA while the 2003 release, Reekiní Havoc just plain reeked.
Another year and another movie sequel later Shrek is given another chance to stake his claim to fame on the GBA. Tose and TDK have relinquished the franchise to Activision and Vicarious Visions who seem to have a much better handle on the GBA and game design in general and Shrek 2 easily secures itself as the best Shrek game to date for the handheld system.
Shrek 2 plays similar to the console version. You can play as Shrek, Puss, Gingerbread Man, Donkey, and a few other surprise cameos. Three characters are on-screen during any given mission and you can pick the one you want to control whenever you like or whenever the situation demands the skills of a certain character.
Each character has certain unique abilities that work either together or independently to solve puzzles, smash enemies, and navigate the levels. The game design smacks of Lost Vikings for those of you familiar with that franchise. Itís a clever concept that has been toned down for the GBA so it works better for the single player, whereas the console versions really wanted you to have 2-4 players.
Levels are substantial but the puzzles are generally intuitive if not downright simplistic, obviously a game targeted for the pre-teen crowd. It wonít take but a few moments to realize what needs to be done and which character needs to do it. Gameplay varies from standard arcade platforming to a surprising bit of stealth and sneaking through some of the levels.
Of course the real challenge lies in the platform-style fetch quest. You canít have a game like this without countless coins scattered about the levels, and some of these coins are hidden really well. Perfectionists will spend considerably more time exploring the levels than casual gamers. There are also some magical power-ups and even some hidden bonus games waiting to be discovered.
Level design for the most part is really good considering the side-scrolling nature of the game. There were a few places where you must make some leap of faiths off the edge of the screen and failure is met with death, but with infinite lives, generous checkpoints, and a cartridge save feature, you shouldnít get frustrated.
Vicarious Visions has done an amazing job of keeping the visual style true to the movie and the console games by using 3D models to create the sprites. The backgrounds are surprisingly detailed and colorful and the characters interact with them realistically so they donít feel detached from their surroundings.
Shrek 2 isnít a flashy title. There arenít a lot of tech-effects, but rather the game relies on a clean and simplistic design, both for the art and the fluid animations. The story scenes between the chapters are nicely drawn, and the on-screen information is intuitive and strategically placed so it doesnít interfere with the gameplay.
There is a hint of the Shrek theme music during the menus but after that you are left to some standard video games tunes that serve as background music and nothing more. Itís not nearly as nice or interactive as the console version but it works for what it is.
The sound effects are excellent and somewhat cartoonish; just what you would expect from a game based on an animated feature.
Shrek 2 kept me busy for a few days of casual gaming or about 6 hours. There are 25 levels that recreate locales from the movie and a few places we havenít seen yet but could easily have been in the fairy-tale world of the film.
The puzzles all vary in difficulty but none are terribly hard. The most difficult thing in the entire game is getting all the coins and that will probably take upwards of 10-12 hours if you arenít peeking at strategy guides.
Despite the fact that I am likely twice as old as the target age for this title I still had a great time playing Shrek 2. It might not be the best action-adventure game Iíve ever played on the GBA but it certainly is the best Shrek game on the system.
The designers have managed to capture the charm and visual style of the films and recreate a small portion of that magic on the small screen Ė the very small screen. If you enjoyed the movie or simply want to play a fun and challenging cooperative puzzle-quest, Shrek 2 is the game for you.