Reviewed: November 14, 2005
Released: October 25, 2005
Itís not hidden knowledge that most movie licensed games donít always work out quite as well as they should, usually made to spur interest in said movie, make a quick buck, or both. The only thing that fares even worse when ported, however, are the licenses from movies targeted at kids. We canít really criticize these games overmuch though, as most kids canít handle something all that complex. Besides, what do they care how it plays as long as they control their favorite characters on TV?
While it can still be argued which audience Shrek is aimed at, the result has been the same: games made on the Shrek license have largely fallen in the latter category among many other mediocre attempts to pull a kidís interest and make a quick buck. How bizarre is it then to see a beat íem up based on the Shrek series being called the next Super Smash Bros?
Shrek SuperSlam is definitely not an ordinary brawler. It compares more to the above-mentioned Super Smash Bros. or the Dreamcast series, Power Stone. The gimmick here is that each successful attack adds a little bit of ďslamergyĒ to your ďslam meterĒ (your bar labeled SLAM! starts to fill up). When full, your character can execute a unique special attack on the enemies in the arena, giving you the chance to earn points. By default, every Slam you do adds one point to your total for each enemy slammed and subtracts one point from the enemy or enemies.
The object of the game is simple - whoever scores the most points, wins.
From the menu you have a choice between five single player modes-story, mega challenge, melee, training and trophy room-and two multiplayer modes-melee and king of the hill. In the story mode, you play everyone from Shrek to Pinocchio, each telling their own fantasy bedtime story in order to put Donkey and Dragonís ďDronkeysĒ to sleep. Not particularly interesting, but it gives us a legitimate reason to have the characters fight and adds some trademark Shrek humor to the cutscenes without necessitating a lengthy lead in. Unfortunately this is probably the shortest part of the game, with only 11 stages and an almost laughable difficulty, this should take most gamers less than an hour to beat.
Mega Challenge takes place on a large map, using a Shrek game piece to move from event to event. In this mode, you can unlock new characters and stages by beating events and gaining points to move on to higher rated events. This is definitely a high point in the game, giving you something to work for and 45 different scenarios to complete. The difficulty ranges from easy to frustrating per event, at times becoming especially maddening.
Melee gives you the chance to fight one to three computer controlled opponents either in teams or in a free for all, allowing everything from the scenario played to the speed at which the slam meter fills up be adjusted. The training and the trophy room are not really modes you can play; training is only there to teach you the basics of the game in three short tutorials, and the trophy room lets you look at the medals and trophies youíve acquired throughout the game.
Multiplayer melee works the same as single player melee, except with you and any combination of up to three of your closest friends or the CPU. King of the Hill plays much like its humble school yard beginning-do everything you can to keep everyone else from reaching the top and subsequently scoring the most points. You can expect to yell at your friends in this mode almost as much as you would in the real thing.
So once you finally pick a mode and get started, fans of the popular Dreamcast series Power Stone will find themselves right at home. The gameplay remains the same, but the controls and objective have gotten a complete overhaul. This can be either a blessing or a curse depending on who picks it up; itís easy to get into as thereís few buttons to master, but it doesnít take long to do so. Thereís a fast attack button that can result in a kick, punch, or slap; a strong attack button that either stuns, charges, slams, or doubles as a weapon button, and finally the customary throw, block, and jump button.
The game adds a bit more depth by adding a unique combo tree for each character in addition to the air attacks, charge attacks, block interrupts and dashes. Certain combos can knock down characters, stun them, or even break through their block, so it does take a little mastery to stand your ground with the best of them.
As far as movement goes, youíve got the full 3D environment to roam, with an isometric camera angle that does just fine when thereís only two characters on the screen. Unfortunately, it does tend to get confused when three or four characters start running in all different directions and responds by randomly raising, lowering or rotating the view, none of which seem to help much. And while some characters certainly move faster than others, the entire control scheme feels sluggish and unresponsive. It takes more than skill to land an attack at times, and more than once Iíve swung wide through no fault of my own or the skill of my foes. Itís hard enough fighting other players without having to fight your controller.
The character models and environments in Shrek SuperSlam are very well done and chock full of the little touches that made the movies so enjoyable. It looks as if both the characters and the settings were taken right from the movie, and the result is a very colorful world with each level and character managing to be distinctly different.
Animation is smooth during cutscenes, although it seems rushed at times. The character models in game have wonderful animation for each individual action such as holstering a weapon, doing an aerial attack, or even pulling off a combo, but frequently interrupts, throws, and slams fails to flow right and look badly out of place. Not only does it pull you out of the world that everything else did such an excellent job of drawing you into, but at times impacts the game play, leaving you unable to comprehend what just happened on screen or properly recover.
The soundtrack to Shrek SuperSlam is quite varied and the tunes can range from humorous to creepy to epic. For the most part, the music matched the stage quite well and if thereís any complaint, itís that some tracks were too short.
The sound effects were appropriate, nothing to really annoy or impress. Everything sounded like it would be expected. The characters had their unique voices and battle cries, although the grunts and hit sounds are rather generic and sometimes led to confusion when a lot of people are on screen in a free for all. Not good in a game where itís important to be aware of whatís happening to you and all those around you at any given time.
Although none of the major stars reprised their roles, the voice acting was good. They did not only a fine job of playing the characters, but playing the voice actors who played their characters. I certainly wouldnít have known it wasnít them if I hadnít seen the credits.
Fans of Power Stone may find Shrek SuperSlam fills the void the original series left, while fans of Super Smash Bros. may find it too slow or the combat too indirect. Gamers will get the most fun out of the multiplayer part of this game, with plenty of replayability among friends or family, while the Mega Challenge adds something for the single player campaign and gives players something to do between melees. While itís certainly not going to bring about any national tournaments, itís a fun little game that kids, parents, or really anyone can pick up and play a game or ten of at a time.
In the end, itís a good game that shouldnít be overlooked due to the Shrek license; in fact, itís probably one of the most redeeming parts of the game. It lacks the polish that could make it a worthy brawler right up there with Super Smash Bros. or Power Stone, but itís a fantastic entry level game for the kids with just enough depth to make it an occasional round with the adults.