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Where the Wild Things Are: The Videogame Review Box Art
GENRE
Action Adventure
DEVELOPER
Griptonite Games
PUBLISHER
Warner Bros.
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1
WI-FI ENHANCED
No
DS COMPATIBLE
No
BUY NOW AT

Where the Wild Things Are: The Videogame Review

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard scoring criteria.

One has to appreciate the challenge faced by game developer Griptonite Games. Where the Wild Things Are is a 5-7 hour video game based on a two hour movie based on a children’s book of about ten sentences across four dozen pages. Most developers would probably have crafted a minigame collection or some other style resonant with the book and movie plotlines. Griptonite, though, did something almost inconceivable: it made a game that bears little resemblance to its namesake. Using the setting and characters from the property, the developer then injected them into a shocking and dark story of survival against a foreign menace. This massive curveball makes Where the Wild Things Are a potentially controversial -- but ultimately rich -- story, even if the gameplay is otherwise pedestrian.

The game begins with almost no fanfare; the title screen shows the main human character (Max) landing ashore on the island. Players unfamiliar with the book or the movie will probably wonder who this boy is and what this island is all about; they won’t get answers here, as the game gives none of the backstory on Max’s origins. Instead, the player immediately takes command of the young protagonist, picking his along a beach with a scepter as his weapon. Early on the game is rather minimal in its sense of purpose, with the player following Wild Things, seeking to be king, and throwing the obligatory wild rumpus.

Where the Wild Things Are Wii Screenshot

Gradually, though, the minimalist approach gives way to something darker and more sinister, a stark contrast to the upbeat nature of the movie. The first clue that something is different comes early on in the story when Max observes a menacing darkness destroying a stretch of countryside. The full-scale invasion of a disgusting black goo becomes a centerpiece of the game’s tale, and what begins as a boy’s journey to a strange island quickly involves into a desperate struggle to save the island from total destruction. As if that’s not enough, Max’s relationship with the Wild Things becomes a complex undercurrent to the larger tale that develops in ways not seen in anything else bearing the game’s title. The finale doesn’t waver from that formula, producing an outrageous and inconceivable end that will provoke and confound players old and thoughtful enough to care.

The gameplay is predominantly a third-person action platformer. Moving along largely linear levels, the action is a mix of jumping, Tomb Raider-esque acrobatics, flight, light puzzle elements and full-on combat. Max often finds himself meandering through treacherous levels, fighting off enemies, collecting one of a dozen different collectibles, and acquiring blue spheres that translate into experience points and additional health. This last point is not quite as important, as Where the Wild Things Are borrows the popular convention of respawning fallen players at a nearby save checkpoint with no penalty. Breaking things up a bit are a scattering of on-rails levels (Max rides the back of a raging Wild Thing) and sailing levels, both of which can be a bit on the tricky side.

Where the Wild Things Are Wii Screenshot

The game tries to pad things out with some collectibles (which, in turn, trigger extras in the game’s village hub-world) but the whole thing winds down after about seven hours or so, not withstanding the additional efforts of collection freaks. The village itself even has its own secrets to explore, but after awhile this novelty wears off and some gamers are liable to ignore it in favor of the main plot.

The controls are mostly button-controlled, with the occasional motion for escaping a whirlpool or initiating a roar. Attacks, for example, are mapped to the B button and can be charged, while A is used to jump, Z to block, and C to initiate a range of contextual actions. IR also gets a cameo in the rare rock-throwing situations. Overall, Where the Wild Things Are keeps things pretty safe with controls, and in general that formula translates into a smooth game experience.

The game clearly aims for production polish, and it largely delivers. The textures are smooth and the addition of effects like bloom elevate this to one of Wii’s better looking titles, especially for a licensed title. The character models replicate their book and film counterparts quite well, especially in the CG sequences created specifically for the game. The voicework is top-notch and is either the movie cast or a really good substitute. The sound effects are also quite good and give the game a real visceral feel, especially in some of the more destructive sequences.

Where the Wild Things Are Wii Screenshot

Despite its originality and polish, the game has a few irritations. One, the enemies in the game boil down to scarcely more than two general categories (flying bugs or goo monsters) and a few variations within those two categories, meaning that after a few hours the game becomes repetitive in the combat department. Two, the game’s difficulty is pretty lenient, thanks to the respawning, but a few of the platforming sequences can be tricky and unforgiving, forcing a lot of checkpoint restarts, and younger gamers may find these challenges daunting. Three, there are a few glitches in the game, especially toward the end, including some sound hiccups and a couple of enemy spawn bugs that require committing character suicide to fix.

In the end, Where the Wild Things Are delivers a far more passionate experience than one might expect. Griptonite Games went with a wholly original plot that is far darker and, in many respects, more compelling than the movie’s take, but the developer does so at some risk. The game’s introduction confines the audience to those familiar with the book or movie, but those familiar with the book or movie are liable to find the game to be an unfamiliar journey. Not only that, but the journey is a short and, in some ways, repetitive one. In spite of all that, though, Where the Wild Things Are is a bold title that looks good and does offer a good amount to do within its own limitations. This game does for the book what, say, Tin Man is to The Wizard of Oz, and those looking for that sort of alternative will find this game worth a look.



final score 7.0/10





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


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