STAFF REVIEW of Uglydolls: An Imperfect Adventure (Xbox One)

Sunday, May 19, 2019.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Uglydolls: An Imperfect Adventure Box art In a world where strangeness and individuality are celebrated, the UglyDolls thrive as a community. This isn’t true of their neighbouring village on the other side of the nearby mountain, as its inhabitants tend to feel that flaws are inexcusable. Such is the premise of the film of the same name, which is currently in theatres and does its best to instill children with a positive message. That is, to be themselves and celebrate their differences.

As was almost always the case years ago, UglyDolls has received a video game tie-in – something that has become more of a rarity these days, as the genre’s previous lack of success led to it almost completely drying up. While most big movies go without complementary video games, this one is an exception for whatever reason. Unfortunately, the result is rather disappointing, as what kids are offered here is a game that doesn’t have much respect for their time, or offer much in the way of enjoyment.

To put it simply, UglyDolls: An Imperfect Adventure is a slog of a cash-in, and one that you’ll want to avoid unless your kids happen to be absolutely batty about the movie and its characters. Even then, you’re probably best to save your money, because this thing is absurdly overpriced at $54.99 CAD.

In all honesty, I just looked up the price now, after finishing the game and beginning to write this review. To say that I’m shocked would be an understatement.

UglyDolls: An Imperfect Adventure begins in a town in turmoil. The cute, fuzzy and imperfect inhabitants are in a tizzy and are hiding out, because robots from the neighbouring town of Perfection have invaded their territory. Said metal and bolt based contraptions haven’t come peacefully either, and have no qualms about hurting the flawed and colourful dolls they come into contact with. Their goal is to change them until they’re perfect, which is something that isn’t wanted or necessary.

After picking between a male or female doll avatar, players find themselves inside of a sewer-based lair akin to something from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There, they’re asked to help out, by a bat who appears on a computer screen, and whose voice is the only form of vocal acting that appears within the game. He introduces the perilous predicament over simple motion comics, and then sets you on your way with your first aboveground task.

The problem is that none of the objectives, or tasks if you will, are entertaining or even remotely fun. In fact, they’re all so basic and repetitive that there’s little to no variety within this game. It could easily have been called Fetch Quest: The Game instead of UglyDolls: An Imperfect Adventure.

The folks at Well Played – who developed this thing, with publishing help from Outright Games – failed to create something fun, no matter what your age is. Although I can’t exactly speak for young kids, I know that I would never have enjoyed such a game when I was younger. Nor do I feel like today’s kids – who have so many options on tablets, consoles, computers and phones – to find much enjoyment in a game that is basically a series of simple fetch quests.

As you make your way through this three to four hour campaign, you’ll find yourself (and maybe one friend) tasked with rescuing different UglyDolls characters, all of whom require something different from you. It’s here where the game’s collecting and crafting mechanics come into play, as you’ll constantly have to stop and riffle through toolboxes, sewing containers, crates and bakery containers for parts. Things like springs, paint brushes, aluminum cans, feathers and rolls of tape.

The idea here is that the aforementioned tools can be used to craft things that can both be given to your rescued allies in exchange for their help, and used for your own purposes. This includes balloons that highlight where your next objective is, pogo sticks that allow you to jump on top of small buildings, boom boxes that can cause a distraction by making robots dance and hearts that refill one’s courage (health). These are just some of the crafting options, and are flanked by other items like boxes (to hide under), floatation devices (which help you avoid drowning while in water) and running shoes, which are needed to get from one switch to another before the timer runs out. Said switches appear occasionally, and are required for some of the game’s more ‘advanced’ puzzles.

Nothing about this thing is very difficult, though.

If you really want to take your time, you can avoid using the balloons, but I’d recommend taking advantage of them wherever possible. Reason being is that UglyDolls: An Imperfect Adventure has no consideration for one’s time, and is of the opinion that people will enjoy walking from one end of the map to another ad nauseam. Yes, all you’ll really be doing here is walking from one marker to another, collecting yellow coins as you go. Sure, there’ll be some challenges – like robots who chase, rush at you or shoot teleportation beams – but they’re not difficult to get away from. There are also the aforementioned switches and light puzzles, but to even call them puzzles is reaching. Throw in a bit of light platforming and that’s all you really have here – one long series of fetch quests with basic gaming mechanics.

Although the story asks you to collect cake ingredients, pick up about 27 blocks of ice and find other random items, all of them are shown as gold coins. Thus, almost none of the objectives found within this game feel unique. You’re just going after the same visual item over and over again, while the characters who want them pretend that they’re something special.

Along the way, those who brave this ‘adventure’ (or, as I like to refer to it: AD-venture) will see lots of green buttons, as well as a smaller amount of blue ones. These are in-game coins, which must be used to purchase certain crafting recipes. Some are given to you through progression alone, but others require a 100 button deposit, even if they’re requested during the campaign. It’s here where some added annoyance comes into play.

If you look at the achievements list, you’ll see that there’s one for collecting 1000 buttons, which should come naturally if you collect most of the ones you see. Normally, one would think that getting to that plateau would be an optional milestone, but it’s not. After getting to 1000 cumulative buttons during the final mission, I made my way to and helped the final of that mission’s five different UglyDolls, all of whom sent me on fetch quests or had me craft things for them. At that point, the game decided to play a fun little trick on me, by telling me that I needed to collect 1000 as part of its final objective.

The above might not sound like much, given that I’d already collected 1000 buttons or more, but it was. Reason being is that I’d already spent a lot of my cumulative total on crafting recipes, leaving me with about 360 to 380 at the end of the game. That meant having to walk around the boring map, picking up green and blue (which are worth five) buttons whenever I saw them. Since they’re normally only in small groups of one to seven (green) ones, it took a while. The blues are quite rare, and this isn’t like Sonic or Super Mario Bros. where rings and coins are quite plentiful. It takes a while to collect a big amount, which meant that I had to waste 30 plus minutes doing this menial task to artificially extend my playtime.

It made me feel very valued, and also made me wonder how kids would respond to such a menial slog of a task. Then again, they’ll be used to such tedium from playing the rest of this bland, unoriginal and boring game.

When it comes to presentation, UglyDolls: An Imperfect Adventure is fine but far from anything to write home about. It’s a serviceable visual and audible effort for the kids’ game that it is, but doesn’t set the bar very high or compete with the best in its subgenre.

The art style is colourful, and the gameplay takes place on a 2D/3D plane that houses a flat town and characters who are quite flat and two dimensional, for the most part. It fits the look of the movie, but won’t set anyone’s world on fire, especially given how repetitive the world and its objectives end up being. It runs well and serves its purpose, though, much like the sound which is fine but far from noteworthy. It offers somewhat annoying music, serviceable but forgettable (and very limited) voice acting and some sound effects that won’t scare or scar children.

With all that having been said, I doubt that I need to admit that I was happy to see the credits roll on UglyDolls: An Imperfect Adventure. While I went in with an open mind – as someone who’s played a lot of kids games and been impressed by more than a couple – I never enjoyed my time with this one. All it did was make me wish I was playing other games, even mediocre ones that I’ve yet to finish. It’s nothing but a series of incredibly repetitive and forgettable fetch quests that offer little in the way of fun, and comes with an absolutely absurd price tag to boot.

**This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.**

Overall: 2.7 / 10
Gameplay: 2.5 / 10
Visuals: 5.3 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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