Right off the bat I am going to admit that I am a huge fan of Pixar Animation and their movies. So its safe to say that I enjoyed the game at the very least from that perspective, but when it all boils down to it, I enjoyed the game regardless of the Pixar tag. Sure UP is a movie based game, and a typical family friendly platformer that most animation films receive from game developers. But the game is actually a lot of fun to play and the Pixar comedic relief so loved in the films is just as prevalent in the video game.
So to easily describe the game would be to say its your typical platformer with lots of crevices to leap across, bosses to beat, and a whole lot of collectibles. There is nothing wrong with describing it that way but the game is so much more when it comes to gameplay. The controls work well with the game, the graphics are colorful and sharp, and the sounds are basically straight out of the movie. So when I say any Pixar fan will enjoy this regardless of age, I truly do think that is the case.
Lets get a little bit of background on the storyline of UP. The story is centered around Carl Fredricksen and his quest in to fulfill his late wife's dream of having their home in the most beautiful place in the world which we learn is Paradise Falls. Carl was faced with being put into a retirement home and decides to take it upon himself to move his house via helium filled balloons to the falls. As he is leaving on his journey, he gets an unexpected companion by the name of Russell. Russell is a young boy trying to earn his Assist the Elderly badge for the Wilderness Explorer program. So the adventure begins and the two will run across talking dogs, airships, long lost adventurers and a bird named Kevin.
So thats the basic storyline of the game and what you are setting out to accomplish. Detailed animated segments separate the levels to give you even more detail as to what is taking place as your adventure continues. The segments are done in an old news reel format with a narrator, but you'll also have quick little movie spots with the main characters as well. The game does a great job of telling the entire UP story and is one of the few games based on an animated movie that does it well.
Graphically the game is done very well. Smooth animations, character models and the environment all help keep the story moving along and don't ever really detract from the overall gaming experience. A few times the camera angle could get a little frustrating when try to maneuver or fight off a big boss such as the green anaconda. But overall you'll find that this game fits the standards expected in the next-gen console era.
In the sound department of the game, things should be exactly what you expect. You'll have actual voice over work from the movie characters, along with sounds typical for any platformer type of game and a soundtrack that coincides with the movie. While the game doesn't have the most compelling soundtrack and voice over work it still gets the job done and has the allure that Pixar is known for.
The gameplay in UP gives you single player experiences as well as same console multiplayer. You'll have many mini-games you can play with another person sitting beside you as well as drop in and out co-op throughout the single player campaign. Of course as mentioned, there are plenty of unlockables as well which can be achieved by collecting artifacts, coins and different colored bugs throughout each level. As you collect bugs and coins through each level you'll also unlock new cards that give you access to more unlockables. Be sure to break apart all that is destructable such as small rock formations and fruit scattered about the environment.
The game starts out with you playing the role of Dug the Dog flying a plane around and shooting down other bi-planes in a dog fight defending Carl and Russell floating above Paradise Falls in the house. It was a strange beginning to the game but you come to find out that the game is actually the back story to the situation you are thrown into at the start. You'll then be thrown into the main storyline of how things got to that point.
Controls are fairly simple when in single player mode. You will have to switch back and forth between Carl and Russell to perform certain tasks such as scaling thin ledges, reaching high points on a map, etc. With the simple press of the bumper button you can switch back and forth. There are certain unlockables hidden from view that can only be accessed with certain characters such as Carl, Russell or Dug. As I suggested earlier there are certain times when the camera is a little clunky and frustrating but unbelievably this problem is few and far between.
The game has various tasks for you to complete and collect. There are levels where you'll find yourself sliding down waterways collecting coins and avoiding boulders, or maybe you'll be fending off dogs and tying balloons to their back and sending them off to the clear blue sky. But in the end the game does get very repetitive and will be one for the younger audience, but also achievement hunters. Fans of the movie will have fun with it for a few hours, but most will not take the time to unlock all the content due to the repetitive nature of the game.
I personally found the game enjoyable for the hours I spent playing with it. And the time I spent playing co-op and multiplayer with my daughter was enjoyable as well, but in the end the casual gamer will get bored quickly with this one and truly only find a few total hours of playtime. I highly recommend the game to folks that are fans of Pixar and to those that have younger children in their household. The gameplay is simple enough to pick up and play for anyone that can hold and work a controller. And the multiplayer modes will keep a family of four busy for while and full of giggles. THQ has delivered yet another family friendly game and they should be commended for keeping families in mind when creating games.
Suggestions: The only suggestion I could possibly think of is online co-op would have made the game more enjoyable in the end. While I realize these games are lower budget titles, it would still be nice to see some focus onto Xbox Live features. The game was still fun, but I would have loved to seen some Xbox Live integration.