Reviewed: August 14, 2003
Released: July 31, 2003
TDK and Tose are back again with a new Shrek title. I must admit I was looking forward to this game after playing Hassle in the Castle last October. That was one of the few games to break out of the horrible rut of Shrek games flooding the market at the time.
When Shrek: Reekin’ Havoc arrived for review I eagerly loaded up the game to enjoy my favorite cast of fairytale creatures, but after about 5 hours I was left with a rather bland taste in my mouth. After nearly a year later Reekin’ Havoc was nothing more than a rehash of last year’s game and not a very good one at that.
Shrek: Hassle in the Castle was firmly rooted in the story from the feature film so for this true sequel the designers had to come up with an entirely new story to drive the side-scrolling levels. Admittedly, it’s not nearly as creative as the events of the film. The story goes something like this.
The ghost of Lord Faarquad is back causing trouble. He is haunting the forest and possessing the fairytale creatures. It’s up to Shrek and the Princess to defeat the possessed creatures and eventually the evil ghost. Donkey is curiously missing from the game and Fiona is inexplicably back in human form – apparently that ogre thing just didn’t stick. Poor Shrek.
While the story has changed the gameplay is the tried and true side-scrolling format of last year’s game. You’ll play through six lengthy levels as either Shrek or Fiona but you never get to choose which character and it’s never explained why you are playing as either. Considering the characters have the same abilities it doesn’t really matter since the change is purely cosmetic.
I’m always disappointed when a sequel doesn’t improve upon the original but in this case the designers have taken several steps back. We’ve lost Donkey and all of the special abilities of the three characters from the first game that really helped to diversify the gameplay. Even the controls and combat system are overly simplified.
The one thing that has changed is the scale of the levels. Reekin’ Havoc has some rather large levels but it is totally obvious that they are large for the sake of being large. Obviously, the designers wanted to scatter the pick-ups around and give you more of an “adventure” feel to the game but instead they have just dragged out a rather poor game. The pacing in Hassle in the Castle was much better.
The graphics are clearly identical to last year’s game complete with big heads and colorful sprites and backgrounds. The animation is a bit stilted and the level designs aren’t all that creative or imaginative. I still enjoy the big head design that allows the artists to show off extra detail that isn’t always possible on the GBA screen.
The music is actually a slight improvement over the first game. The songs are pretty cool and they don’t tend to repeat as much. The rest of the sound effects are light and cheerful - typical GBA platform stuff.
Hassle in the Castle offered some fun mini-games and multiplayer for up to four connected GBA’s – all of that has been stripped away. The only reason you might want to replay this game is to log the highest score for each level. This scoring system is about the only new feature to be found in Reekin’ Havoc. Other than that you can probably finish this entire game in less than six hours making it a perfect rental.
I simply can’t explain what happened with Shrek: Reekin’ Havoc. We have the same publisher, same designer, and the same game engine yet so much has been stripped away and none of it was replaced with similar or better content. We lose Donkey, multiplayer, mini-games, and most of the fun and are left with a short an uninspired sequel that will disappoint even the biggest Shrek fans.