Reviewed: June 1, 2005
Released: May 25, 2005
The powerhouse team of DreamWorks Pictures (makers of the movie) and Activision teamed up with Beenox to bring us the modestly priced PC version of Madagascar at around $20 bones. Don’t let that price fool you though; this is a humorous action game that will delight fans of the movie, and others alike.
For those who haven’t seen the movie or countless trailers, Madagascar is a story about a group of animals living in the New York City Zoo. Marty, the zebra has just turned ten and is going through a mid-life crisis. He dreams of exploring “the wild”, and late one night he escapes from the zoo and makes his way through downtown New York to Grand Central Station where he tries to catch the train to what he thinks is the wild or what we call Connecticut.
His friends; Gloria, the hippo, Melman, the hypochondriac giraffe, and Alex, the lion try to catch and bring him back to the zoo but they all end up getting captured and put on a cargo ship, which is hijacked by scheming penguins who are also planning their own escape back to Antarctica. Our group of heroes gets dumped over the side of the ship, still in their crates, and ultimately wash ashore in Madagascar.
Throughout the game you rotate through all the primary characters; Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria, the stout Hippo (Jada Pinket-Smith). Fear not, as you also get to play as those dastardly Penguins who are obviously fans of Solid Snake!
Each of these characters has a distinct style as well. Marty is stealth like, but not lacking punch. He is contrasted well by the massive Gloria, who pounds her foes into submission. Alex has a fearsome roar attack while Melman goes into helicopter mode to traverse the land.
The levels consist of a generous dose platforming involving lots and lots of collecting, namely coins that can go towards unlocking/purchasing things later. But also there is a lot of variety added here, so don’t fret if you dread “old school” jumping games.
On some levels, you may use Marty’s stealth abilities, while another area you may have to use the collective wits of the penguin gang to take over a boat, weave through traffic (Frogger style) with Gloria, and even lead swarms of impatient bees to jungle plants before they sting you. Coupled with the extensive minigames you shouldn’t get bored easily. Good thing too, because I myself have the attention level of a 9 year old- the target audience.
The levels are highly interactive, you will have to crawl, jump and climb over all the 3D designs, dodging enemies and grabbing those all-important coins. Some of the earlier levels have hidden arcade machines that allow you to play games like Tank Combat, Galaga, and Red Baron, giving you some old-school flavor.
Control wise I was a little apprehensive…. a PC platformer, but surprisingly it handled well enough. And without having to dust off my Gravis game pad! You use the keyboard for directional movement and jumping, while the mouse is used for primary attack and speak action. Be aware of the wonky camera though, it’s manually controlled but can get stuck in some odd positions; a nightmare for successful platforming.
Madagascar is chockfull of mini-games and unlockables. You can even purchase apparel from the games "Zoovenirs Shop." No, not “real apparel” mind you, but rather outfits for your characters ingame, like shoes, hats and such. You can also buy extra life and other power-up goodies. Lastly, you can purchase three mini games; Tiki Minigolf (VERY CUTE!), Shuffleboard and Lemur Rave. The latter is a riot with those crazy Lemurs in a DDR inspired game. There are also upgrades and new modes that can be purchased for each of these mini-games as well.
Any game based off an animated movie-CG no less-has to look good. And thankfully, Beenox does the film justice. Characters are animated well and vibrantly colored but the flapping of their jaws seldom syncs with the words. Now, this is a small grievance, but it distracts big time from the personality of the characters. The cutscenes use in-game graphics and the transition is nicely done, instead of high powered or copied scenes from the movie, ala the recent LOTOR games.
The environments help to further infuse the game with visual energy and are spot on when compared to the movie “sets.” The locals include downtown New York, the Zoo, a giant ship, and the massive jungle isle of Madagascar.
The NPCs and whatnot are a bit bland comparatively, almost as if they were added as an afterthought. Beenox: “Ok we have a great adventure/puzzle game! Whew, glad that is over.” *champagne cork pops-5min later gets call from Activision: “How is that ACTION game coming along…eh?” Beenox: “SACRE BLUE! Make some enemies quickly!”
Madagascar makes up for somewhat lackluster graphics with some fantastic sound. The voice work is spot on and the background music fits each scene nicely. The voices themselves are really key in making you bond with the character, I especially liked the character of Melman, a neurotic giraffe who is deathly afraid of heights and nature itself.
Sadly though, they didn’t get the actual voice actors from the movie, but the replacements do a remarkable job. One character I could do without though was Marty, played by Chris Rock in the movie. I’m sorry but what was the last good movie with Chris Rock? And why are his stereotypical “ghetto” catch phrases still funny? Please.
Getting into the music side of things, it is constantly upbeat and doesn’t really get too repetitive or grating, suppose ‘ol Hans (Zimmer) has had some experience… The effects are also well done, reminding me of my zany Saturday morning days of yore.
With a game time between 8-9 hours to complete, Madagascar is pretty light in and of itself. But remember it is marketed for the little ones, so it shouldn’t be some epic ordeal for those tykes. They need their nap time after all…wait…so do I…Irregardless of my narcoleptic issues, Madagascar won’t drive you batty trying to defeat it.
Plus, you can't overlook those mini-games. The mini-golf easily has the potential to keep you playing longer than the main adventure, and the shuffleboard and dance party are also a blast and support multiple players.
Madagascar combines spirited graphics, diverse gameplay and a excellent soundscape, all for $20 or less. Fans of the movie should definitely pick this one up. Play it with your kids, play it alone, just play it. It’s a fun, goofy adventure befit of the legacy that Activision, DreamWorks and Beenox have created.