Gummy Bears: Magical Medallion
Wii | Storm City Games / Clockwork Games | 1 Player | Out Now (North America)
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways)
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17th November 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
Beginning a new game from the game's Story Mode option, the game adopts a simple picture-book-like approach where images will be shown on-screen with a zoomed-in camera moving to and fro. Some text introduces the simple plot but without a narrator to make the experience feel more like a storybook reading than a thoughtless plot to a children's game. One of the very first things you'll notice about Gummy Bears: Magical Medallion is its choice of music. From the moment you reach the Main Menu, you're introduced to some familiar music that sounds like it was serving as a theme song to an animated movie for younger folks, set in a busy town of some kind. Although there aren't many of them, much of the other tracks in this game give off the same feeling which is certainly appropriate given this game's target audience.
Getting back to the game, though, progression is very linear -- something that shouldn't come as a surprise. Players will venture to three different themed worlds, from Candy Land to Fairytale Forest and, finally, Hardcandy Mountain. Right after the last level in each world, a timed collect-a-thon level will be made available (known as King Sour Berry's Challenge). Excluding these, there are 12 standard levels for players to get through. Your overall goal is to collect the three special gems required to re-construct the Gummy Bear Medallion that the evil king has tampered with.
Within each stage, you'll find a mix of different enemies, including evil jujubes, zombie-like donuts, bumblebees, jelly-bean dropping flies, and large muffins. Most enemies can be defeated simply by jumping on their heads once or twice, but there are a few that you'll just have to avoid touching altogether. In the way of collectibles, cherries, grapes and other fruits can be found in insolated areas of levels, as well as the easy-to-find yellow coins. This is probably the only component of the game were the candy-inspired motif doesn't take full control. In both cases, their implementation does not serve a real purpose other than providing a superficial reason to say you've fully completed a level.
As a platformer tailored to kids, Gummy Bears: Magical Medallion takes an easy approach with its controls. You're asked to hold the Wii Remote sideways while playing, using the D-Pad to move left and right along the 2D plane and the 2 Button to jump or double jump. The Up and Down buttons allow you to look up or down from where you're standing, or you can also use them to climb when you're on a ladder. Those are the basics you'll need to keep in mind.
With respect to platforming, this game doesn't do anything that you haven't seen before unless you're a new gamer. Level designs are usually very basic as is the structure that's used to regulate the different kinds of platforms you encounter along the way. Aside from the final stretch when you start to see a little more variation, players will continually see the same sets of elements, with ladders and seesaws being the norm. On a slightly less frequent basis, you'll also spot ropes made of licorice that swing back and forth on their own, large round cylinders that can block your path, as well as weight-sensitive platforms. Once again, the candy theme comes into play here, with marshmellows and clumps of jelly serving as trampolines to spring you to new heights.
On a related note, there are minimal pathway extensions to be found within levels, making the overall flow quite regimented and less exploratory in nature. Levels 10 and 11 were a bit better in this regard in the way they encouraged players to look for switches in more spread out areas, but for the most part the level design has been made subject to a one-track mindset. Checkpoint balloons appear quite frequently so as to minimize any kind of annoyance with getting a Game Over and starting from the beginning again. However, younger players shouldn't have to worry about losing all their health since they're given a generous supply to work with. If it should happen that they're knocked out some other way -- either by falling into a pit, getting squished, or getting pushed off the edge -- the words "Game Over!" will appear.
More on the subject of platforming, the developers of this game decided to incorporate some motion control into the experience. Large rocks are sometimes found in the middle or at the end of paths, and as you get close to them, a gauge will appear on-screen to indicate that you need to shake the controller until the green bar reaches the top. There are also circular lifts that require shakes of the controller so they can move to where you need them to go. Considering you're holding the controller sideways, the manner in which you're required to perform these motions isn't very accessible. Shaking it up and down naturally won't do the trick, which forces kids to get out of the comfortable position they might have been in up until that point.
For a kids game, I was surprised there was no indication of shaking controller as a requirement to advance in areas that called for it. But even without these problems, there's still the fact that these moments are the silliest parts of the game. Standing on a round platform and shaking the controller to make it move just a few inches? Getting caught in a random candy cane cage that emerges from the ground? All this does is just break the level flow, never mind the common trend that any area where motion is used doesn't work well.
Some of the regular hurdles you'll have to pass in each level come in the form of coloured doors. Two of these simply involve retrieving a nearby key from a floating balloon or touching an alarm clock and running to the open door in time. The other two are actually brief activities that require you to press the A Button to initiate. One is a jigsaw puzzle where you point the Wii Remote at the screen and rotate/drag the pieces in place, while the other is a simple card-matching exercise. Just like with the shake-activated elements spoken of earlier, the game does not indicate that you need to press A to activate doors. But even still, this is yet another area of the game where -- at least with two of the four door types -- the steady flow comes to a halt with little discernible purpose behind such a decision.
Even with all the sweets, the environments in this game are often very plain-looking. I do agree that the game is somewhat colourful, but in the process it also carries a boring tone that overshadows any kind of tantilization the developers thought they managed to pull off. Some of the background visuals just stop at a certain point instead of filling the screen, with another layer of abruptly behind it abruptly taking over. Character animations have a similarly plain execution to them. When your character's health expires completely or if he falls into a pool of hot candy, he'll just stand there as if imitating a statue. Even if they didn't want to show any kind of "death" sequence, this still could've been approached better. Interestingly, some of the other animations that preceded the Game Over screen were kind of amusing the first time, like when your character gets squished by a tower of square treats or gets swept away by a stream of flowing water. I imagine kids will find these light-hearted approaches humorous as well.
More on presentation, there were multiple occasions where I found the camera to be wonky, and it doesn't require reaching a certain point in the game to figure this out. There's a jumpy transition that exists from looking up and down; simply moving left and right continuously will produce that effect. It isn't all bad, though. The few times when pathways bend around a corner or lead off into a different perspective, the camera does follow you adequately. Other than that, I thought the loading screens that preceded levels took longer than they should have, averaging at about 12 seconds but taking up to 20. Yet another area that demonstrates game development wasn't strong.
A child shouldn't have trouble completing the entire thing in an afternoon or two as there is only a small number of stages. Plus, as I said before, with the frequent checkpoints and the generous life support, neither the challenge factor nor the threat of failure are very high. Once you complete the final level and obtain the last gem, you'll learn that the evil entity automatically disappears (typical) and the Gummy Bear Kingdom will now enjoy lasting prosperity. With that, you're taken back to the Main Menu and can decide if you're done with the game for good or if you want to get a bit more out of it. If you feel so inclined, returning to levels and obtaining all the collectibles will reward you with a star of completion. Plus, you'll also unlock some achievements in the process. Alternatively, you can head to the Mini-Games menu and replay the jigsaw and memory door activities or the end-of-world challenges. Considering that the fun factor is kind of low, why a child would want to do either of these things is beyond me.
For a child who generally has had limited exposure to the genre, Gummy Bears: Magical Medallion can be seen as a beginner's platformer. I would argue that there are many games out there that already serve this purpose much better with more mindful level design. From weak motion controls, mixed presentation and platforming that merely gets the job done, the flaws of the game prevent it from being anything but a generic release that kids won't get much out of.
14/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 5/10 - Weak motion incorporation with some lame gameplay elements, platforming is very basic and often similar across the board
Presentation 5/10 - Camera can be wonky at times, plain-looking environments, multiple audio tracks that are mostly fitting, slow loading screens
Enjoyment 2/5 - A mediocre experience all in all, low fun factor, will mostly appeal to kids with minimal experience with popular modern-day platformers
Extra Content 2/5 - Mini-games are just the activities from Story Mode, achievements, a child won't have trouble completing it in an afternoon or two
Equivalent to a score of 47% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System