Reviewed: June 11, 2003
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: May 9, 2003
Playing and now reviewing Finding Nemo is a constant nagging reminder that I need to get away from my computer and consoles more often and actually go to the movies. Based on the latest Disney–PIXAR animated feature, Finding Nemo is an enchanting underwater adventure game that revisits classic platform gaming staples that I thought were long forgotten.
One nice thing that really impressed me was that the PC version was a totally unique experience compared to its console counterpart. After playing Finding Nemo on the Xbox and GameCube I was delighted to find that the PC version was more of an adventure and exploration title than an action/platform game. It fits the mentality of PC gamers a bit better and was just a nice change of pace.
Unlike the console games, the PC version of Nemo is definitely geared toward younger kids and may not be as appealing to teens and adults as the console games are.
Finding Nemo reminded me of those old interactive Disney desktop games like Toy Story, Lion King, etc. that were designed to keep kids busy by having them click on every pixel on the screen to see what might happen. Finding Nemo does the same thing but also manages to tell a story and have some gameplay thrown into the mix. You can click on almost every piece of coral, plant, shiny stone, murky shadow, or anything else that turns your mouse pointer red and get a humorous animation. One of my favorites is clicking on a rock and having a chalk drawing of a shark drawn for me. Clicking again animates the shark so it is swimming and clicking a third time makes it snap its jaws then disappear.
The story in the game follows the movie with Nemo getting caught by a scuba diver and placed in a fish tank. From here the game takes a unique twist allowing you to play from two perspectives, that of Nemo and also of his very worried father, Marlin. By clicking on the link at the bottom of the screen you can toggle between the ocean and the aquarium and play as either character, both working to reunite father and son.
Finding Nemo is played entirely with the mouse. Every possible place you can go and every possible item you can interact with is indictated by a multi-colored arrow. Click on objects to make them do things or click on fish and other undersea life to talk and interact. You will often be given quests that require you to talk to others and collect and manipulate various inventory items. It's all standard adventure game stuff that has been taken down a notch to make it accessible for younger kids.
The only minor complaint I had with the game at all was a bit of a lag going between the various scenes. The game would pause for 3-5 seconds and the music would stick in a loop. Returning to previous screens was instant so I can assume the game is caching earlier screens.
Underwater adventure games are quite rare on consoles and non-existent on the PC. For sheer artistic vision and quality, Finding Nemo is a visual tour de force and offers an amazing experience that is not only surreal, but actually does an impressive job of mirroring the quality of the movie.
As far as underwater realism, everything is bright and colorful, just like the movie. All of the creatures are modeled with meticulous care and detail to look just like their movie counterparts. There are all sorts of creative underwater designs and textures and about 75% of all onscreen objects can be clicked to produce some sort of visual effect. The aquarium scenes with Nemo are quite enchanting with classic structures and plants that you would find in a salt-water aquarium including the traditional scuba-diver floating in the tank.
The music is perfectly suited to the game and maintains a Disney-like theme throughout. The sound effects are minimal but all convincing and suited to the actions that trigger them. The voice acting easily steals the show with a wide range of characters, each with their own unique personalities ranging from the absent-minded Dora to a hilarious cast of fish stuck in the tank with Nemo. They all have very distinct speech patterns and accents that brings them all to life.
It took me about 12 hours to finish this game and complete all of the challenges for Nemo and Marlin. I’m guessing the kids this game was designed for will get at least twice that much enjoyment, and while parents and older siblings won't be rushing to play this on their own, the game isn't "too easy" or childish so that it insults the more experienced gamer.
THQ has been releasing a lot of kids games lately, most of which have been designed based on Nick and Cartoon Network franchises, so it was nice to play a kids game that is based on a Disney license. Finding Nemo was a refreshing change from the other so-called kiddy games out there and a major surprise considering they chose not to simply port the console game over to the PC.
If you liked the movie you will love the game and if you haven’t seen the movie chances are you will want to after playing this game. Finding Nemo is one of the best movie-licensed games I’ve seen so far this year and I highly recommend it for kids and their parents or anyone just looking for a fun and unique game.