STAFF REVIEW of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Xbox 360)


Thursday, November 20, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Box art Games based on movies and TV Shows are a dime a dozen now and most of them do not live up to their silver screen counterparts most of the time. Madagascar 2 brought to us by Activision falls right into that category of not living up to it's movie counterpart. Kids will have fun with the game, especially the elementary crowd, but there are some major flaws that even detract from the game for that demographic. We'll talk about that in a bit.

So for those that do not know, Madagascar follows the adventures of a few animals that escaped from the Central Park Zoo in New York City. They were shipped back to Africa to live in the wild, but the problem was that the animals were domesticated and had no recollection of their African wild heritage or lifestyle. As time went by, they adapted to their surroundings but still yearn for the comfy and cozy lifestyle of New York City. Fast forward to Madagascar 2 and you find that the main plot of the movie is the animals trying to make their way back home from Africa.

The storyline is not the issue with the game. Neither are the graphics or sounds. Nope, this game begins to fail when it comes to the gameplay itself. It can get quite frustrating at time with bad camera angles and confusing mini games. Even my 7 year old daughter took issue with some of the mini games and not being able to execute maneuvers properly.


I honestly thought this game was going to be your typical platformer where you run around and collect items moving from level to level as you progress through the storyline. Sadly, I was greatly disappointed as it turns out that Madagascar 2 is really just a mini game party fest. Sure there are some things to collect and you progress through some levels between cut scenes but only to get to the next mini game really.

When it comes to variety of mini games this game definitely excels. There is what seems like an endless supply of different mini games using the characters from the movie. They each have special abilities which make each game unique to that certain character. For instance, all water games will involve the Gloria the Hippo, while games that involve kicking will of course involve the Marty the Zebra. Get the drift?

Graphically the game is colorful and the characters are well represented. This is very representative of the movie in the end, but still isn't enough to consider this game as good in anyway. You'll be treated to both cut scenes designed specifically for the game and actually clips from the movie. Quite a few of them are comical and a treat to watch. In all honesty, the clips and cut scenes are really the shining factor for this game. Where the game suffers is with the camera angles. At times the camera will be completely flipped in the wrong direction having you spin it manually using the right stick to get it back to where you would like. Also quite a few times it was difficult to judge jumps and what not when running through a platformer style level. I found myself falling quite a few times making jumps I thought I made but alas ended up missing the landing point.


The sounds in the game are what you would expect for sure. All the original voices from the movie seem to be in place especially for the main characters. So that helps the game out a bit towards making it at least enjoyable to some degree. Many of the sounds from the original game have been used again in this game so if you played the first game you'll notice a lot of familiarity such as the roar you hear from Alex, the lion. I tend to love to listen to King Julian and his funny one liners and he definitely helps make the game enjoyable just from his cut scenes alone. His sidekick Mort is quite funny as well in the game. But really, its gameplay that is supposed to make a game fun, not the sounds, and its sad but that fun factor just isn't there with the gameplay.

The storymode, which you have guessed by now, is a mini game feast. Anyone that is a fan of mini game compilations will be quite happy with what Madagascar has to offer and again many kids will enjoy it a lot for the most part along with some frustrations though. You'll start the story out learning some basic maneuvers as King Julian shows each main character of the story (Alex, Marty, Glory and Melman) the basics of the game and certain special attributes they have and how to use them. As you progress through the movie storyline you'll play mini game after mini game after mini game. Each game is fun the first time you try it and holds a little interest but that quickly wears off. I found myself looking forward only to the cut scenes rather than what lies around the next corner for the gameplay itself.

Each level contains tokens which you can use to purchase special items such as character costumes, special content, and even some bonus game content. One thing that kinda baffled me is that all the cut scenes require you to purchase them as well even though you unlocked them in the story mode. That was a bit odd I thought, but I guess it gives kids something to strive for and play the game more. The duty free store is located at the main menu outside of the story mode.


The other gameplay option in the game is Africa Arcade which allows you to play the 10 mni games with other players locally. Probably one of the more fun games is the Mini Putt Putt Golf course. Playing with others adds a little fun to the games, and should really be enjoyable for kids to compete with one another, but again it falls short in the end and there really is nothing that makes you want to keep coming back for more.

Honestly, this truly is one of those kids only games. Even if you are a fan of animated movies such as myself and enjoy the games that coincide with the movies you'll still probably find this one tough to really enjoy or at least keep your attention. That is how I felt while playing it unfortunately. The fun factor is just not there and the cut scenes and movie clips just aren't enough to save this game and make you really want to sit and finish each and every last bit of it. For most, this will probably be a gift for their kids or a rental to get some easy achievements but really thats about all it is good for in the end. Save yourself a few bucks and just rent the game or wait for it to hit a bargain bin and you'll definitely avoid some disappointment. If you have an elementary school age child, they may find this enjoyable but my own 7 year old lost interest pretty quickly.


Suggestions:
If you are going to make a game that is centered solely around mini games then please make that a selling point of the game. I knew there was mini games, but I did not realize that it was the entire game and very little platformer style play. The camera need to be tweaked quite a bit as there was many times I found myself having to adjust it manually to be able to see what I was doing or trying to do. In the end I was really disappointed with this title due to it being a mini game fest.


Overall: 5.5 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.5 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10

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