Madagascar 3: The Video Game
DS | D3Publisher / Torus Games | 1 Player | Out Now (North America)
After using images of lacklustre quality to give a bit of background on their last voyage, the game takes you along for the ride as Marty, Alex, Gloria, and Melman join up with a few circus folk as they venture back to New York City. The game will start you off with a slow driving mission along a flat highway, having you weave through traffic in an attempt to create distance between you and the ever vigilant Captain DuBois. This short mission only functions as a part of the back story, so once it's finished, you'll get to dig in to the meat of it all.
Regardless of whatever activities you involve yourself in, the game always has a way of bringing you back to a central gathering area. Picture a circus-themed hub with all sorts of attractions and that's pretty much what exists here, just not as imaginative as the mental picture you just created. Taking a trip to King Julien's tent, for example, will present the opportunity to spend accumulated tickets (the main pick-up in this game) on new abilities, while the photo station will serve as your save point. There is also an item shop, a car that will take you to the different continental destinations, and the Big Top circus tent where you can perform for crowds. Of them all, the bulletin board will be your most visited destination, as it is from here that you will select mission objectives of your choosing before proceeding out onto the field. Following in the same direction as the console version, the handheld iteration of Madagascar 3: The Video Game adheres to a mission-based structure with an even greater emphasis on this being the entire make-up of the game.
After having dealt with the slower pace of the console version, I was worried the same would ring true here. Thankfully, it doesn't -- for the most part, anyway. Most characters, once again, have their own special level element reserved for them in each environment. Marty not only is the fastest of the bunch, but he has the cannons all to himself. Gloria is the only one who can swim -- there's more of that going on here -- and move boxes. Both her and Melman also share the ability to get across tightropes, something I also found to be better in this version since you don't have to worry as much about balancing at a somewhat slow speed to offset the same directional leans again and again. As for Alex, pretty much all he's good for is leaping onto poles.
When you want to switch out to another animal, simply hold down the X Button to pull up the character wheel and then either tap the icon on the Touch Screen or press the associated button on the D-Pad for the character you'd like to swap with. But I have to say up front that this whole game might as well be renamed to 'The Marty & Gloria Show' as they're the only ones who you really need to get by. Alex might be able to sneak into the spotlight too if it were not for the fact that his pole-leaping abilities can be bypassed with another character's moves. Melman, though, is pretty much the odd one out with nothing really distinguishable about him other than his sneeze attack. On that note, Marty and Melman are the only characters who can attack enemies in this game on an initial basis. It isn't until later that you can earn attack moves for the other two. Alex's Double Jump move -- standard in the console version -- has been made into something you need to purchase. On top of that, even with the basic attacks that you do have, the whole process of performing such a move can be irritating at times as it often involves pausing for a second before striking. With there actually being some need for these abilities in the context of earning every single collectible, this was probably done to make you go back to levels later on. It's not like you won't already have to do that, but I'll get to that in a bit.
As far as the collectibles go, the main ones come in the form of letters that spell C-I-R-C-U-S; secondary pick-ups include soccer balls and other souvenirs that are somewhat specific to each character, except for the fact that there's no enforcement that you have to be the character who it belongs to just to grab them -- yet another positive improvement over the console version. The last set of collectibles you need to worry about, other than the tickets mentioned earlier, are purple tokens which can be exchanged at a booth in the main area for rather pointless hints or some more tickets in random quantities.
The levels in this game often stick to a horizontal setup with relatively few changes in perspective taking place. That said, they aren't always organized in a perfectly linear fashion. There are areas where you are offered more control of how your character interacts with the environment, which basically means that you'll get to move in directions other than just left and right. Thus it can be said that there's a bit of depth explored in the way they are laid out; but I do want to emphasize that this isn't anything significant. Aside from a few sections where the camera switches to an overhead view, the tracking doesn't change much as you venture forward in those other directions. Worth considering, too, is the presence of interaction points where, after pressing the A Button, characters will teleport from one side of a tunnel to the next or from a manhole cover down into the stream of water. Aside from these somewhat lazy jump points, the level design isn't all that bad. It's what they do with it (or don't do with it) that shows the game doesn't perform well in related areas.
It is at this point that I'd like to slowly assume a standing position, as I feel it is my responsibility to properly address why I started out this review the way that I did. Notwithstanding several issues I've already brought up, I have not yet made mention of anything that would demonstrate that this is a poor experience. But from here on out, you will come to realize just what it is that this game does so wrong that I'd refer to it in such a negative light. So, to get started, surely you'll recall my mentioning that this is a game that's heavy on the mission objectives. Unfortunately, while the completion of these missions will incrementally add to your progress in the game, the overall feelings attached to them breed feelings of doubt towards this experience being worthwhile. A large portion of them show the adventure to be little more than a hugely orchestrated collect-a-thon with absolutely no driving force whatsoever.
I strongly felt while playing this game that the development team had almost nothing else to justify the game's existence other than to rely on missions that are basically just completed to pass time, not because there's something significant to work towards. A pitiful reason is offered as to why players go about doing work -- yes, work -- that would make an intern look like a star performer. Apparently, selling tickets for "the main event" of circus performances is somehow a convincing a reason to chase after items on a nonstop basis. And when you do what's asked of you, everyone decides to go back to the circus since there's nothing more to be done at the time. But wait! Let's take on another mission, done in the same level, with objects placed in similar places with no thought given as to the impact this would have on our apparently narrow minds.
Under the guise of the future occurrence of doing circus acts, these missions are used to fill the game under such shallow terms that it is offensive to the player. Now, in practice, the crowd-pleasing performances aren't bad. Set up like obstacle courses, most of them control just fine and don't give much room for fierce complaint. But the game uses these to put on this big charade to hide what it's really made up of. Lucky for the player, it's something you can see right through.
The whole structure has this sense of contention that you have absolutely nothing better to do, so instead of giving you something purposeful and directive that will actually make you feel good, the game will instead send you on all these pointless activities to the same environments again and again. And after going at it for hours, only then will it let you out of what feels like a prison to see what the rest of the game has to offer...which just happens to be even more pointless missions! No one's actually going to sit through all these pointless meanderings and not think twice about how poor the experience is. In these ways, the game presents itself to be a mockery with no comprehension of what fun is, pummelling players young and old into boredom over depressingly repetitive and shallow missions.
Adding insult to injury, the presentation is also poor. The audio in this game can easily be compared to the missions for their constant looping. This isn't just limited to the background music, as even the voice clips of enemies and the main characters are repetitive. There are also glitches that cause stuttering of those same voice clips, as well as the production of static sounds. In overall terms, this could be seen as the lesser offenses of the bunch, believe it or not. Much worse than this is the lack of care towards a visually-pleasing product.
The framerate in this game is caught up in a constant struggle that truly never dissipates regardless of what level you're in or what character you choose to play as. Sloppy programming makes combat with scooter enemies a challenge when they should not be, where you will often sustain a hit even after knocking them out. And if you get caught in its path, it will drag you along and hardly offer you a chance to escape from its hold. It is also not uncommon for players to see tickets falling off paths down to areas that can't even be accessed. Then there are glitches surrounding the tightropes where you may be seen falling to the ground, disappearing before you land, and then re-appearing on the line as though you never left. Worse yet, I even encountered severe glitches where an entire portion of a level (with the exception of the water) would not load! The only thing saving this game from even more criticism is the fact that the environments are functional despite sometimes being a bit on the dull side. Even still, the game is riddled with issues that are more than bothersome and clearly demonstrate a complete lack of polish in the game's programming and technical design.
Madagascar 3: The Video Game is completely transparent in its major shortcomings to the point that I cannot under any circumstances recommend it. If you're a parent reading this review, please understand: Even if your child may be a huge Madagascar fan, there is no reason why he or she should be so inhibited to sit through something like this. This is a game so extremely repetitive and purposeless that it will do the very opposite of expanding horizons and imagination. Through and through, this is a worthless experience that should be avoided by all.
08/30 - Simply Awful
Gameplay 3/10 - Poor game design with a clear lack of purpose, pitiful excuse for an experience, ridiculously shallow structure that proves to be insulting
Presentation 3/10 - Very flawed in its technical design, regular glitches ranging in severity, issues with sound, sloppy framerate among other serious issues
Enjoyment 0/5 - Absolutely no fun to be had, pointless and extremely repetitive missions, circus acts aren't bad but the game's core leaves a terrible taste
Extra Content 2/5 - Collectibles that don't mean anything, mini-games, missions will last you several hours but there's no way you'll sit through all of it
Equivalent to a score of 27% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System