We were kindly sent this game and a smashing Press Pack prior to its release in order for my daughter and I to test. Unfortunately I forgot I only have one PS3 controller so we had to take it in turns. I would point out that I am the seasoned pro on the PS3 (well, for Final Fantasy anyway) and she is the die-hard DSi player, but that didn’t stop her.
The game is for 1-4 players and is of the action-adventure/(slightly) platform genre. It is aimed at the 7-12 age group. Having said that, my daughter, just having escaped the Tween and moved to the Teen, still considered it worth playing ;-) The thing that immediately grabbed her attention is the fact that you could play as characters such as Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), Nemo (Finding Nemo), Sully (Monsters Inc.) and many more. This made the game appealing before we’d even put it into the console!
There are 6 Disney 3D worlds that you need to work through including “Pirates of the Caribbean” containing ships and caves and “Alice in Wonderland” which is exactly as you would expect it (yep - surreal). You would imagine these worlds would be a bit ‘twee’ but in fact, the premise of the game is that these worlds have been corrupted by a strange virus and now are inhabited by dangerous enemies and a variety of traps and hazards. Characters are trapped in the levels and you need to set them free again. Each world consists of three separate areas containing three relatively short but fun levels.
The graphics are well done, bright, attractive to a younger audience but, most importantly, you can easily recognise the character representations. You seem to wear a character costume. The style reminded me quite a bit of “LittleBigPlanet” although whether that was intentional given the target audience I am unsure. The costumes themselves can also be levelled up so that you can give out more damage to your foes whilst being better protected yourself.
With having an early copy of the game, we had no instruction manual included but that really wasn’t necessary. The gameplay is simple to understand and follow...if you’re younger than me! Despite numerous blue arrows, I still managed to get this wrong, much to my shame. It can also be rather generous to the player at times, although, again, I managed to disappear off the screen a fair few times. However, don't be put off by my blunders into thin air!
There doesn’t seem to be too much fine aiming involved in beating enemies which is great for younger players. Even if you do get killed off (by enemy or just walking in the wrong direction as I did), it seems that you don’t ever actually die. Your character simply reappears in the area you were and you carry on. I think this will be a definite bonus for younger players but perhaps a little less appealing for the older end of the spectrum who probably would like there to be a bit more of a challenge in the levels where you really could ‘lose’. There is no additional difficulty either as you work through the worlds but I guess that’s the price you pay for being able to unlock them early (more on that in a moment). It would be pointless unlocking a world where you had not ‘levelled up’ enough to beat the enemies within. Perhaps a 'difficulty' option at the beginning of the game where more experienced/older players would then have limited lives might have been good. It’s a minor grumble though.
Much of the joy of the game for younger players is that they will simply be pulling levers or moving objects into slots (again with a generous AI to help them not need to be too precise) and battling simple enemies (many of whom I noticed seem to lose their clothes as you begin to defeat them).
One of the other interesting things I noted in the game was that any foreground objects ‘vanish’ when you are behind them so you don’t have to worry that you are about to emerge from behind a boulder facing the wrong way and run straight into an enemy.
Additional features include small puzzle type missions in different areas. These are just challenges triggered by an item, such as a games console that appears in Wall-E’s world. You then go off and complete the challenge to win some reward such as gold or items. Gold – the cute currency in a well recognisable Mickey Mouse head/ears style - is abundant by the way. I am not sure whether you need to rush around to collect it all but I’ve not left it to see. I, personally, am a grabber! You can accumulate the currency quickly allowing you to unlock other worlds so that you can play them in any order you want. Most seem to unlock around 2,000 coins. However, it is still worth replaying worlds that you have completed as you will find new challenges and items, as well as the ability to earn those extra mini-game medals.
As I said, we could not test the co-operative play out but I am sure that would be fun working as a team, provided the screen did not get too crowded.
All-in-all, it’s a nice game for the age group it’s aimed at and provides enough to do to let you want to come back and have another try, play another character, reach that gold medal or finding hidden areas and objects. We would certainly recommend it.