December 07, 2008
One of the things you have to consider as an older gamer (well, not that old), is that when you are playing a game meant for families and casual gamers, you have to put yourself in that mindset. Now, I’ve seen the two Madagascar movies and enjoyed them both. The only question that was left to be answered was; is the game going to be anywhere near the quality of the movie? Activision tries to answer that question with Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa.
You begin the game as one of the main characters of the movie, Alex the Lion, who must perform a task for King Julian, the self-proclaimed king of the lemurs. The game from the offset seems to to the family genre as the tasks are as easy as using the left joystick and pressing a single button at a time; it is this simplicity that makes it a great family game. Once you have completed King Julian's collection task, you journey around the island of Madagascar meeting the rest of the main characters; Melman, Marty, and Gloria; all the while, King Julian is cracking jokes that were so stupid that I couldn't help but laugh.
The gameplay consists of a multitude of mini-games that are playable within the main level. This includes kicking a soccer ball at balloons with Marty, playing musical chairs with Alex, curing hapless giraffes with Melmon, and attempting the perfect high dive with Gloria. This smattering of mini-games makes the game fun and easy to pick up; especially with helpful mini-guides accompanying the games. The single button presses mean it is only difficult enough that you may fail the activity a couple of times. The controls are semi-responsive to the effect that the joystick movements feel clunky while the single-button presses respond to your presses; it basically does what it should.
Graphically the game is gorgeous but just not an artistic masterpiece, and it's clear that the developers didn't hold back with the environment. The scenery is reminiscent of a cartoony jungle and is something that wouldn't be out of place in the movie. Escape 2 Africa tries to give the feel of an “open-world” experience but falls short as the levels are way too tiny, however, that doesn’t take away from the fun of the mini-games. The game also offers a store, which opens up after you complete the Madagascar level where you can take a look at a variety of extras, movie clips and more mini-games.
The multiplayer aspect for Madagascar 2 is fairly thin. When you open the multiplayer mode it gives you two options, yet only offering two options for a game that is centered around mini-games doesn’t add up to me. Luckily, if you like a mini-game enough or want to practice it to perfection for use in the main game, it is easy as pie. High-dive, musical chairs, and jungle chess are all offered in the quick arcade multiplayer mode, yet these aren’t the only ones. Most of mini-games that are in the main game mode are offered, although not all. The second option for multiplayer is tournament mode. Here you can take four of your friends and duke it Mario Party style. Whilst it's not up to the caliber of Mario Party, it is a welcome edition to a game that you would typically expect to be just a single player experience. Multiplayer for Madagascar 2 provides some good laughs, but gets old fast.
One of the only gripes I really had about this game was the achievements. You have your smattering of “Complete X level” achievements and then you have your extremely difficult achievements. Anyone who has played this game will understand that attempting a perfect dive is on par with some of the more difficult achievements I have ever attempted. To this day I have yet to get a perfect dive with Gloria after spending a good hour trying to get it. Another one of the most hated achievements is trying to collect a certain number of items; Madagascar 2 has these as well. Unfortunately, it is a drag to have this game on your gamertag as it is so difficult to complete.
I would completely recommend this game to anyone but the hardcore gamer with the mini-games would appear too easy and the overall game too short. However, for the more casual gamer and for families, this game is perfect; even more so if you enjoyed the movies as much as I did. In all honesty, I am not one to actually pay for an animated film, especially one that looked as corny as Madagascar 2 but when I finally was persuaded to go, it was money well-spent. The same fits for the game as well and could be classed as money well spent.
I honestly thought they brought the actors back to voice the movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sacha Baron Cohen didn’t do the voice for King Julian. That’s how good the voice actors/imitators were. Add in your typical jungle music and you have all the music that you would need for a game like this.
The game often reminds you of the movie and the environments are gorgeous. Vivid colors and the cartoony feel fit this game perfectly and the developers did an excellent job.
One of the very few complaints from the game was the clunky controls with the left joystick when you are controlling the main characters in free roam. It gets to the point where it bothers you by the end of the game but might bother others from the very beginning. Other than that, simple button presses and holds are really all that involve the playability.
Starting you out in the game where the movie starts always gets an A+ in my book. Following the movie like a video game adaption should almost always net the game a high score; this is the case for Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa. Funny jokes by King Julian just add the finishing touch to make this game get a fairly high score in the delivery category.
Classic list for a family game…except that some of the achievements are brutally difficult and require tons of practice and a lot of luck. I grimace to think of when I will actually put this on my card. Usually family games have fairly easy achievements and movie-games have notoriously easy achievement but this is not the case for this one. A mixture of easy/super hard achievements.
It really is quite a good game that families and casual gamers will really enjoy. While you can complete it in under ten hours (arguably five), the achievements will take you much longer. Saying all that, I really enjoyed it and found myself laughing at the jokes and trying my hardest to finish the mini-games. I would recommend this game to anyone who wants an easy-going game that isn’t going to blow your socks off with incredible graphics or mind-blowing difficulty.