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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Box Art
GENRE
Party
DEVELOPER
Toys for Bob
PUBLISHER
Activision
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1-4
WI-FI ENHANCED
No
DS COMPATIBLE
No
BUY NOW AT

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Itís a well-worn truth that video game journalism isnít kind to licensed titles based on kidís movies. This cynicism isnít without merit; too many of these efforts come off as cash-ins on an unsuspecting young crowd and their beleaguered parents. In that context, one can hardly be excused for looking upon Dreamworksí Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa with low expectations. As it turns out, though, the game is actually a really solid option for its target audience, and might even give mom and dad a bit to chuckle about, too.

visuals

Escape 2 Africa is a reasonably polished product on Wii. The graphics are cleaner and more impressive than a lot of whatís already out there -- think mid-to-late GameCube era. Characters are reasonable facsimiles of their movie counterparts and move smoothly across detailed environments, which is all the more impressive given the sheer variety of places the game visits. The cutscenes are rendered using the game engine and most of it looks pretty good, although the lip-synching could use a little work.

audio

The audio matches the level of polish found in the video. The music is appropriately ambient, with the usual parade of sound effects. Every line of dialogue in the game is spoken, and it is delivered with panache; the efforts are impassioned and ostensibly delivered by the movieís cast, giving the game a real authentic feel as the counterpart to the movie. To its credit, the dialogue isnít merely drivel, either, sporting a level of wit that is bound to elicit a chuckle even from the adults. The real star of the show here is King Julien, who delivers some unexpectedly brilliant one-liners in the vintage style of the movie.

gameplay

Escape 2 Africa is essentially a minigame collection with a storyline. Running in parallel (broadly speaking) to the movie of the same name, players take on the varied cast of the movie across multiple locations, including the two locations suggested by the title: Madagascar and Africa. In each level, players are presented with a series of minigames that employ a varied cast of characters. After completing a minigame segment, players move on until reaching the end of the stage. The game starts to branch out a bit as the story goes along, allowing players to pick and choose which direction to go next. Overall, the total package is good for about 8-10 hours from beginning to end, with additional value embedded in the gameís extras.

The minigames run the gamut and reflect anything but a lazy approach. Platforming, fetch quests, fishing, animal races, stealth action, shooting, point defense, automotive combat (seriously), and even a little Trauma Center-style surgery are just a few examples among many. The different styles are interspersed in such a way -- and the gameís many characters rotated in frequently enough -- as to make each new segment feel fresh.

Borrowing from the proven formula of the LEGO series of games, Escape 2 Africa takes several key steps to keep the aggravation level low for young players. One, the games are pretty forgiving -- at worst, a failure leads to a retry. In most cases, though, thereís not even much indication of failure; the shooting sequences, for example, allow you to simply keep shooting for as long as you have to in order to achieve the objective.

Two, the controls are pretty accessible. The game dual-maps controls to both waggle and buttons, so a player who doesnít want to, for example, hammer the Wii remote can simply press B. The motion control is still there for those who want it, but young players who lack the precision in coordination may find the buttons to be preferable.

Aside from the main story mode, there are loads of extras to be found in the game, including unlockables and arcade-style game collections. Some of these extras are available at the start, while others are unlocked through gameplay or can be purchased from the Duty Free Shop using currency accrued during the story mode. More than just padding, many of these extras are great diversions in their own right; a robust mini-golf game, for example, allows for one to four players to square off in a multi-hole course of treacherous, African-themed putt-putt.

As well-designed as the game is, there are a few problems that hold the game back. One, the gameís camera can be a bit of a fight, especially in some of the platforming sequences. Two, some of the longer minigames -- especially the ones where a player failure results in a restart back at the beginning of the sequence -- are pretty hard and might prove too much for a younger player.

multiplayer

Offline competitive multiplayer is the fare here. Some of the arcade games and other extras allow for one to four players to square off. Some of these are more memorable than others, but at least a few of them (particularly the aforementioned mini-golf and the chess game) have some nice replay value.

overall

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a great example of a kidís property done right. Itís polished both visually and aurally, itís accessible for its target audience, and itís got enough variety and life to make it more than the brief diversion that other such licensed titles prove to be. Whatís more, parents who sit down to play this one with their kids will find a surprising level of witty dialogue and funny situations. While hardcore gamers should disregard this gameís score and move on, causal players and parents looking for solid kids fare shouldnít hesitate to pick this one up for the holidays.



final score 7.5/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Joshua Johnston
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"Round 1! Fight!"


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