Almost everyone loves a Pixar movie – their great characterizations and 3d artwork appeal to audiences of all ages – heck I still remember watching Toy Story for the first time and thinking it would change the way we think about kiddie movies forever. Up is the newest movie from the critically acclaimed studio and the Wii game version is due to be released shortly by publisher THQ.
The game (not surprisingly) features the same characters from the film which means you can take control of Russell (the young scout), Carl (the grumpy old dude) and Dug the dog. Strangely the first level of the game is based around a late scene in the movie – a very unusual decision that really makes very little sense. Once this is completed you head into the standardised format for the game which involves Carl and Russell traveling through the wilderness collecting merit badges and completing obstacles. Each character has a different set of abilities which help them overcome the environment sections and they need to work as a team to make progression. Russell for instance can help Carl over terrain obstacles by using a rope and Carl can push over rocks with his walker. It hardly sounds exciting and while the film scenes and plot help somewhat to keep the player focused and directed throughout the whole experience is rather bland and mundane.
If the game is played by a single person they can swap between the characters to complete the puzzles. The character you aren’t using is controlled by the computer AI who makes sure that the teamwork sections operate as the developers planned. There are no noticeable glitches with this, however obviously having another human player makes the game slightly more interactive and appealing. To help the younger audience audio cues are played from time to time to help guide players to the objective. If another player appears during a game, he can jump in at any time to lend a hand and then vanish later leaving the computer AI to take over.
The game plays reasonably well and I let my young son take over the controls to see how he would react to the experience – especially as this specific game is clearly targeted at his age group. He enjoyed the bulk of the game play however he found the dog attacks extremely frustrating. On a semi regular basis dogs emerge from the background which requires the gamer to continually press a button at the right time to block them. This is a button mashing experience which would have really been better avoided entirely and I can’t really comprehend why the developers felt it necessary to include such a sterile concept.
Controlling the game on the Wii is easy enough via limited use of the motion controls and the dogfight areas require players to point the Wiimote at the screen to aim. Everything else is sadly dealt with via button presses and the analog stick. Sometimes there are sections which require a shake or waggle now and then such as helping your partner climb a cliff, but generally the motions do not correspond to the on screen action and really add very little to the playability of the title.
Up lasts for only a few hours via the main quest and the badges and hidden items are really easy to find but may require a level to be played more than once. Only the youngest audience will find this enjoyable however as once I played the levels I didn’t want to see them ever again.
Multiplayer is catered for by three very simple modes which allow up to four people to participate in variations on airplane dog fights. Players have to shoot darts at each other or balloons to win the game. They certainly add a few more hours of game time for the majority of people but they are too simple to appeal to even a slightly older audience.
The graphics are decent enough but they don’t live up to the movie experience which I guess is not something we would expect from Nintendo’s Wii. They are colorfully designed and will appeal to concerned parents as they contain no graphic depictions of violence or blood and guts – it is totally child friendly. For example even when the dogs are repelled in the game, they aren’t kicked or decapitated, Carl simply ties a balloon to their back and they float off into the horizon. If you die, you reappear in the same area and the health bar is not often touched – the game is really that easy.
The audio is the most fun part of the game as it is hilarious, especially when Dug the dog makes an appearance later in the game. The music is also very ‘disney like’ and cheerful which is all we could really ask for in such a game.
Younger fans of the Pixar movie ‘Up’ will assuredly extend their enjoyment after the cinema experience by getting their parents to purchase the Wii game. The whole thing is so simple to play that kids with limited skills or game experience will find this immediately entertaining and easy to play. Cooperative play also means a brother or sister can help to make the experience more of a social event adding to the appeal. For the rest of us however, it really is one to avoid as there is nothing much any semi experienced gamer will take from this.
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