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Over The Hedge Package Art
Vicarious Visions

Over The Hedge

Letís talk about Over The Hedge for DS. You're probably thinking: a handheld video game based on a popular animated movie property? Thatís a preordained by-the-numbers 2D platformer with only a passing relationship with the movie itself, right? You might be surprised in this case.

For the DS version of Over The Hedge, Activision turned to Vicarious Visions, a development house known for taking certain hot properties -- including the Tony Hawk franchise and Spider-Man movie license -- and making them portable with a great deal of success. In making Over The Hedge, a standard movie-to-game translation just wasnít going to cut it. Living up to their reputation, the people at Vicarious Visions fleshed out an idea that hasnít really been explored on Nintendo DS before.


Many DS games use one of the systemís two screens as a map. This practice isnít a sin, but itís been used so many times already that it seems like a lazy solution to the question of Nintendoís second screen. At first glance, Over The Hedge appears to cleave to this mold, but it actually goes much further.

While the action on the top screen resembles that of a standard 3D platformer, the lower screen features an overhead view of the action. So what makes this any better than the map screen from Super Mario 64 DS? This time around, the overhead view features real-time 3D-rendered graphics. It is the same locale as on the upper screen, save for the now overhead camera rather than behind-the-back; which, for anyone keeping track, means that in this game, DS is producing real-time 3D graphics on both screens at the same time. This is something that has supposedly been one of the systemís capabilities all along, but really hasnít shown up in any meaningful way before now.

The story is told through pre-packaged cut-scenes, which are remarkably similar to the movie itself. Later on, these are replaced by still images with text boxes, which is somewhat disappointing. However, the real-time graphics are fairly sharp and robust, and the character models for both the animals and their human antagonists retain the irrepressible flavor of the film.


Unfortunately, not too much to recommend, here. The music isnít going to impress or amaze anyone, but it does its job, and sound clips from the movie are included.


Just like in the movie, the charming and conniving RJ the raccoon, Hammy the squirrel and Verne the turtle spend their time snatching junk food from unsuspecting suburbanites, while trying to save their forest home from a greedy developer. Levels generally consist of missions, which involve fetching items for companion animals or trying to steal a certain amount of items within a time limit.

Stealth action is, surprisingly, a major part of the game. RJ and his friends are unwelcome intruders in the human world, and they have to watch out for guard dogs, aggressive cats, exterminators and vengeful, popgun toting kids as they try to loot the neighborhood. This is where the second screen comes into play.

While the baddies can be seen on the upper screen if they are directly within the playerís line of sight, the bottom screen is a far more valuable resource when trying to avoid detection. Not only is it easier to see where the enemies are and in what direction theyíre moving, but it also displays a cone of sight for each one, which RJ or the others must avoid at all costs. Getting spotted isnít the end of the world, but it is quite a bit easier to yank that bag of Fritos without the big, rabid dog giving chase. In addition to the living hazards, most homes are also equipped with startlingly excessive home security systems, including laser trip wires, knockout gas and whirling flamingo chainsaws, which -- as you know -- are a must-have for any effective home security system.

Using the two screens in tandem is the key to success in this title. Often, some items or obstacles will be visible in one view but not the other, which means that glancing at both screens at certain intervals will be necessary. Fortunately, this felt natural, and never really got tiresome or difficult.

Touch functionality isnít a major factor, but can be used in a couple of small ways. If you don't want to use the buttons, you can perform actions by touching, but this is peripheral at best, since the D-pad must be used for movement regardless. Switches and other objects can also be targeted by touch, which is definitely useful when trying to make a precise throw.

Unfortunately, the title isnít problem free. The physics engine could've been tightened up a bit, as getting hit by the all too frequent lasers can often send you back into a gas trap of frustrating instant death. Also, while the graphics look good, occasionally a bag of chips or plate of cookies will disappear while RJ is lifting it; and once in a blue moon, a small area of the screen will blur for a short time. A bit more fine-tuning or a rain delay would've kept these scuffs from the game.


Two players can go head-to-head in single-card play, each trying to collect the most food as fast as possible in one of the game's stages.


Over The Hedge serves quite well as a light-hearted stealth action game. Itís not enough to make you forget that thereís no Metal Gear on DS, but it does boast a somewhat new use of the systemís features, and for a portable game based on a family movie property, exceeds all expectations.

final score 8/10

Staff Avatar Aaron Roberts
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