I used to think the problem with videogames based on movies was accuracy
. While I'm not one to believe games have to physically reproduce the movies in videogame form, they should try, certainly, to capture the feel of the movies without being reduced to plagiarism. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, for example, while not directly from a movie, captured the feel and the exhilaration of living the lifer's life and breaking out of prison. LEGO Star Wars (1 & 2), took the cute and clever high road, doing wonders for my appreciation of both, Jedi and movie adaptations. There are other examples of movie/games, good games, that will survive criticism. The problem with Shrek the Third, the game based on the movie, isn't that it has decent graphics (sometimes great) or that it features the real-life voices of many of the characters (Meyers, Banderas, and Dias included), or that it has some clever one-liners. It's accurate
enough. The problem is, simply, that the game just isn't that good.
Good, as subjective as it is, means quality
here: voices seem phoned in for this adventure, the graphics suffer from terrible animation, and the one-liners are all marred by visual inconsistencies (such as characters looking off into the distance when they should be focusing on their subject and jerky animations). Sadly, as much as a fan as I am of the first two films, Shrek the Third, the game, is not the definitive Shreking experience. It isn't necessarily even a decent platforming experience--I was constantly flashing back to Spongebob Squarepants: the Battle for Bikini Bottom, which was, despite its fairly reductive gameplay, an enjoyable experience and a decent platformer. Shrek the Third for Xbox 360 wishes it were Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. It wishes it could hold a candle to other kids games. But it can't, and I just can't recommend it.
For the first half of Shrek the Third you'll be on a quest to find Arthur, who, by transposition of myth, is the rightful heir to the throne of Far Far Away. Far Far Away has been thrown into chaos after Prince Charming's coup d'etat while Shrek, Fiona, Puss, and friends are away looking for Arthur. For the most part, the game follows the plotline of the movie, even to the point of reproducing many of its jokes. When you find Arthur, you'll have to come back to Far Far Away and lay the smack down on Prince Charming and his goons, who have, in your absence, turned the kingdom into a littered mess (uh oh!) and been overall jerks (yikes!). Really, the plot is so light on cleverness and so heavy on good-versus-bad that the game's only fanbase will probably be very young children.
This demographic might be capable of ignoring the glaring flaws with the game, that you can clip right through floors, get stuck in cannon caddies, and fall off cliffs without any bearing of depth in relation to the game world. But for everyone else, you will get frustrated before the end, scoff at the terrible animation (especially when a character is in the distance), and question your intelligence while you bust open box after box, kill witch after witch and other remedial services to your king. The length of the game is stretched by the inclusion of "items" hidden throughout the levels that you can collect for whatever reason (and the only reason I can imagine is to inflate your Gamerscore). These items generally reflect the level in which they are being found. For instance the princesses sometimes find tiaras while Arthur finds glass slippers, that sort of thing. Everyone has to find Souvenir Mugs. These "quests" are all bound together with the Shrek universe's familiar sarcastic disbelief; some characters call them "fetch quests" and heckle you for not finding them already. Although the game does have some fun with its own ideas, it still has you performing those remedial "fetch quests" which are anything but fun. It seems to use it's own brand of humor to give lease to the tedious gameplay, even though the game's designers would probably prefer that humor to enhance
The gameplay itself is mostly platforming, with quite a bit of actioneering (read: mashing X until you pummel enemies). Different characters have different moves--Puss can double jump, for example, Shrek can pick up things--but apart from those the characters' moves are indistinguishable. You'll be running around and hacking or punching enemies through 90% of the game, and it does get boring, especially when the enemies don't have much variety or provide much of a challenge. There is some puzzle solving here and there. The puzzles consist of you running to a button and pressing A + B (which the game tells you to do) and then you'll open a door-Ta DA! These puzzles aren't hard and in fact come off as quite insulting. And the puzzles that have you pushing blocks of ice to use as platforms are the worst kind of frustrating, especially when I found that I could just jump and get that last Souvenir Mug and didn't need the ice block at all.
In combat you can also perform "finishing" moves where you press "Y" after pummeling an enemy a bit and your character will do their own brand of joking finish on them, like punching a goon's head between their shoulders or taking off an evil pinnochio's hat, smacking him, and putting the hat back on. These are pretty cool moves, although the shoddy control scheme (which doesn't always allow you to perform them, either because you had pressed X too many times or because its not responsive) gets in the way.
Which brings me to the biggest problem with Shrek the Third: the camera. Platformers generally have the toughest time dealing with the camera. It gets in the way, it gets stuck in walls, it doesn't let you see what's going on. But usually you have the option of moving it around if it gets stuck. In Shrek the Third, the developers figured it was a good idea to just take out that option and let the computer move the camera for you. But it will still get stuck, won't move quite far enough, meaning you'll be jumping blindly for platforms quite often. It doesn't help either that there aren't any discernable shadows for the characters so you can tell when you're over a platform. The result is that you'll overshoot that platform and have to start over, many times until you get it right. Now, you don't die
when you fall down a chasm, but you do start back at the beginning of the platforming section.
Each character has to also collect blue orbs from fallen enemies (called fairy dust) to power up your "Fairy Dust Attack." This essentially is a super attack that uses about a third of your blue fairy dust meter and hurts enemies slightly more than pummeling them. The special attacks work pretty well with the game and actually go a long way to add variety to the otherwise humdrum hack-n-slash.
But Shrek the Third doesn't really know what kind of game it is. It's disconcerting to me, as a gamer and reviewer, that Shrek and Fiona have an "Ogre Power" attack which puts the two protagonists into bullet time
. No, I'm not kidding; your brain probably just exploded a little too, didn't it? Shrek and Fiona can go into bullet time, and then they can then proceed to punch and kick everyone in their vicinity until they're dead, then pick up loads of fairy dust from their remains. The bullet time effect is cool and all, but it just doesn't make any sense with the characters' ethos. Last time I checked, Shrek didn't have bullet time, Max Payne did, Neo did, even that main character from F.E.A.R. did, but not Shrek. Shrek doesn't need bullet time, and I'm not sure why it's even in this game.
Shrek the Third is also light on multiplayer options. It allows 2 players to play five different "minigames," which are just what I said: very small games. So small they'll probably be played once and forgotten, especially the terrible "Frog Herding" game. Anyone want to play Shrekleboard, the game's version of shuffleboard? No? Why not? Doesn't that appeal to the 70-year-old in every
kid? Who the hell thought that would be a good idea? Not me.
There is another section of the game where you're firing catapults at the enemies' castle, trying to knock down towers. This can be more amusing than most of the other sections, although it becomes repetitive quite easily, once you figure out where to aim and how much power to utilize.
The very worst thing about Shrek the Third is that it's quite dull, as you might expect from a game that features a shuffleboard minigame. Anyone over the age of six will be thoroughly unimpressed and move on to better games, like LEGO Star Wars 2. I can't recommend it to anyone, even fans of the series unless games like Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom were too difficult. And the only reason this game doesn't get the 1 star is for the fact that the authentic voice acting by Mike Meyers and crew can
, once or twice, make you giggle. There are a few good moments herein, but they are all surrounded by face-bloodying, heart stopping boredom. Shrek the Third is a rental only, but only
if you've run aground on other options.