Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

   13/12/2008 at 11:29       Joe Bennett       4 COMMENTS. - Score 1/5

I recently had the surprise pleasure of playing Kung Fu Panda.

While far from being a fantastic game, it was a very enjoyable platform-adventure romp. I actually enjoyed it more than the film, and it's not very often you get to say that about licensed games. So with renewed vigour and faith restored in licensed games, I approached Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa in a more positive light than I usually would. I’ll never forgive that bloody Panda.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa goes back to the 8/16-bit era of licensed games. Being a collection of mini-games tied loosely together as a platform-adventure, you guide Alec, Melman, Marty and Gloria around Africa in a quest to get them back to New York. Within the first 90 minutes you’ll have played football with Marty, launched Mort at moving targets and got Alec to play musical chairs, pass the parcel, played dodgeball and other equally tedious mini-games.

Interestingly the main issue with these mini-games isn’t that they’re mind-numbingly dull (which they are), but more that the target audience, six-eleven year olds, will struggle with them. Launching Mort at targets was relatively easy for me. I only missed two and rapidly progressed on to the next stage. However my 9 year old niece, brought up on games such as Happy Feet, Kung Fu Panda and Boogie, couldn’t grasp the combination of gravity, timing and aiming that this particular mini-game required. Numerous attempts later, she was completely frustrated and would not have persevered had I not been on hand to bail her out. This was a regular occurrence throughout her two hours with the game. Poorly explained mini-games, awful controls (when I, a gaming veteran, had trouble keeping the truck driven by penguins on the road, what chance does a nine year old have?) and platform sections where you have no idea where your character is going to land, all mean that Madagascar is somehow far too easy for adult casual gamers, but also far too difficult for the younger audience.

The platforming sections are riddled with the sort of design issues that were apparent in 8-bit 2D and early 16-bit 3D platformers. The camera is easily one of the worst I have encountered in any game. Trying to keep it behind your character provides more of a challenge than the actual platforming sections and is yet another hindrance to younger players. At times it can also be impossible to tell where your character is going to land. One early mini-game involving Gloria butt-stomping some suitcases (what’s that sound? Oh yes, that’ll be the mini-game barrel being scraped) is much harder than it ever should be, simply because you can’t tell whether Gloria’s obese arse is landing on the suitcase, next to the suitcase or behind the suitcase.

Even the main hub of the game, the Waterhole, is a complete mess. You’re never sure where your next objective is, what direction you’re meant to be heading in (although due to the tiny play area, you never have to backtrack far) and there is never really any sense of progressing the story due to the disjointed, stop-start nature of the gameplay.

Once you’ve got about halfway through, Madagascar turns into a more old-fashioned style platformer, with you having to use each of your character’s abilities to hunt down the monkeys that are spread across the land. This is actually marginally better than the mini-game strewn opening to the game (although mini-games do still feature regularly), but only marginally. Aside from the main game, you’re able to play some of the mini-games in multiplayer, although quite why you would want to play musical chairs again is anyone’s guess.

Visually Madagascar is a bit of a mixed-bag. Most of the cut-scenes are reasonably impressive but the in-game visuals suffer from awful animation and collision detection. Depending on your opinion of the humour in the Madagascar films, you’ll either be slightly amused by King Julien, or irritated by his almost constant little quips. None of the original film cast has done the voiceovers in the game and therefore you have to endure soundalikes that often sound very little like who they’re meant to be imitating. Some are so bad they make you feel slightly embarrassed for the person behind the voice and whoever provided Melman’s voice should think about a new career.

And that’s really all there is to say about Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. There’s so very little game to discuss and so very few (if any) memorable moments to comment on that really you’ve got better things to be doing with your life than wasting anymore time reading an article about a game that, whether you have kids or not, you really shouldn’t consider buying. It isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, nor the worst movie license ever, but it’s just so incredibly tepid and confused as to what it wants to be that I can’t think of anybody to recommend it to. When my nine year old niece couldn’t find any enjoyment, especially when she can be kept amused for hours with bubbles, there really is very little hope.

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