Reviewed: June 13, 2005
Released: May 25, 2005
Movies and video games seem to go hand-in-hand these days. Everything from Star Wars to X-Men to The Matrix has been brought to the small screen. Basically, if there is a major motion picture out there, more than likely, there will be a video game to follow, and in most cases precede, the movie’s release.
This is not a brand new concept, mind you. It has been going on since the good ol’ days of the video arcade and then it continued on after the introduction of the home console. Anyone remember watching poor E.T. repeatedly fall into holes on the Atari 2600? If not, then consider yourself lucky. Fortunately, video games have come quite a way since E.T.’s primitive plunges, and Madagascar, for the Nintendo DS, is the latest in a very storied history of movie to video game adaptations.
Based on DreamWork’s most recent animated blockbuster, Madagascar follows four animals as they escape from the zoo in New York City and make their way to the island of Madagascar. Actually, it is Marty the zebra’s tenth birthday and, itchy for some adventure, he escapes the zoo first, with the help of some penguins, while his friends, Melman the giraffe, Gloria the hippo, and Alex the lion set off to find him. They are all together and there is an epic journey on the horizon.
Madagascar is a platform game in which the player chooses to play as one of four different characters. Each character has distinct abilities that will help him or her achieve their goals, which is mainly collecting coins throughout each level.
Alex is the agile double-jumping lion, Marty is the speedy stealth-like zebra, Gloria is the powerful swimming hippo, and Melman is the hypochondriac giraffe who likes to hide a lot. Each character’s specific abilities play essential parts in completing the goals, and a player will not be able to get by using only one particular character.
Some stages require swimming, some stages require hiding, and some stages require running. Most often, all of these things are required within the same stage, which is where the character swapping comes into play. A simple touch of the screen will change a player from lion to zebra. You can also scroll through the characters by using the L and R buttons, but the touch screen is a much more accurate way to get from one creature to the next.
On the downside, each character’s attacks are very limited. Melman can only use his neck attack in a straight forward manner, while Alex can only use his roar attack at an angle. Sure it is nice that there is variety in the game, but it seems kind of ridiculous to have to switch out a character in order to kill one single bird or one lone spider. Sometimes the angles of the enemies make a clean attack quite difficult, too. For example, Marty kicks at his enemies, but if they are coming toward you on an incline it is very easy to kick right over them, thus losing some life when the enemy eventually runs into you. The same thing happens when you play as the penguin and try to swat the rats.
Another minor flaw is the excessive blind jumping. On some of the stealth levels, it is almost impossible to not be spotted by the enemies. Sure, when you hide in a crate the screen pulls back, but when you are not in the crate it is very difficult to tell what is coming up next and, more often than not, when you jump to the next platform, a big old burly sea captain is right there to catch you.
There are also plenty of mini-games and levels that are not found on the Game Boy Advance version and are exclusive to the DS offering. These areas make use of the DS’s touch screen ability. For example, a player must use the touch screen to roll Gloria through a level and it must also be used in order to help the penguin catch some fish. Thankfully the touch screen was not completely ignored.
Additionally, this game does not require multiple cartridges for multi-player action. Find someone else with a DS, download, and go. It is as simple as that.
Despite some minor flaws, the gameplay is very smooth and the character switching keeps things interesting. The variety definitely breaks up the boredom that can set in while playing a one-character-only platform game.
When a game is ported from the Game Boy Advance to the Nintendo DS, with the exact same graphics, it almost automatically loses points due to the fact that the DS is a much more powerful system than the GBA. Madagascar is no exception.
With that being said, the graphics for Madagascar are really enjoyable. The opening sequences are very sharp, the menus are easy to read, and the game itself is very colorful and vivid. From the dingy setting of New York City to the blue water of the ocean, Madagascar delivers in the fact that the graphics give the game a certain feel and puts the player into the intended environments. Oh yeah, and watch out for falling bird poop.
Sure, the graphics could have been souped up a bit, but, in this case, the lack of a graphic upgrade does not make or break the game. Though, it is sad that the aforementioned power of the DS is not being used to its full potential, but that regularly happens when titles are released for the both Game Boy Advance and the DS.
The sound in Madagascar is sensational. Just try to get that opening theme song out of your head. The themes and background music are very pleasing and upbeat and they do not repeat too often. This is another thing that keeps the game fresh, not letting it become stale like many other platform games.
Madagascar’s voice acting is very well done. Though, at times the voices seem to get drowned out by the game’s music. Fortunately, the game options include the ability to turn both the SFX and the music up and/or down, so a player can adjust these to his or her liking.
Speaking of sound effects, they are also very well done within the game. Every lion’s roar and every penguin’s wing flap can be heard crisply and clearly. This truly makes the gaming experience more worthwhile, especially with headphones on.
While more seasoned video game playing adults might scoff at this game, the kids will love it, especially if they are fans of the movie. Overall, the game is not too difficult, but it will be a nice challenge for the younger players. Though, older players may not find it to be the easiest of games, either.
Madagascar also thrives due to its replay value. Many levels can not even be thoroughly completed the first time around because some characters do not become available until you finish the stage. The mini-games will keep you coming back for more, too.
Fans of the movie, young or old, should definitely pick this one up. The awesome sound, the wide variety of gameplay, and the sharp graphics are a winning combo. In the current world of movie to video game adaptations, we should all be thankful for one thing: Gigli: The Video Game does not exist. So, get a hold of Madagascar and play a great game that is based upon a great movie.