Reviewed: May 31, 2006
Released: May 9, 2006
Over the Hedge is the inevitable GBA game released to accompany Dreamworks’ latest computer animated motion picture of the same name – which follows the exploits of a group of wildlife animals whose environment is suddenly encroached upon by neighboring suburbia, and the measures they take to fend off the approaching humans.
Game-to-movie conversions – especially those geared towards the younger set – usually elicit shudders from reviewers and gamers alike, due to the cookie-cutter approach they take to gaming. In many cases, main characters are simply swapped into existing game engines in a cut-and-past fashion, with a mere dashes of originality and/or familiar scenery thrown in to justify the movie tie-ins.
However, the folks at Vicarious Visions have been fairly successful in achieving honest-to-goodness enjoyable gameplay in their DreamWorks’ tie-ins for Madagascar, Shrek and even the astounding 3D adventure of the DS version of Over the Hedge.
Sadly, the GBA version of Over the Hedge does not fare so well – coming off more as a last-second marketing gimmick than the highly polished DS offering.
Let me get this out of the way first; if you are at all longing the gameplay of the Madagascar tie-ins released for the GBA in the past year, you are in luck – save for the unique isometric perspective, Over the Hedge is virtually the same game that I reviewed months ago under the name Madagascar: Operation Penguin.
Now, to be fair – there are a number of significant differences between the two titles, but there is also an equal number of shared gameplay ideas that seemed quite fresh in the fall, but are bland as can be a half year later.
Over the Hedge puts gamers in control of any one of a number of the wildlife characters – exploiting the unique strengths in each – Over the Hedge pits players up against the humans and tasks them to a series of fetch-type puzzle quests – moving boxes, moving logs, navigating mazes, even fending off attacking Girl Scouts – all on the quest to collect candy and other foodstuffs, and ultimately trying to drive back the encroaching humans.
One bright spot is how the process of manipulating the rocks and logs become increasingly more puzzle-like in structure, eventually becoming almost like a traditional slide-block puzzle where rocks and logs need to be shifted to certain areas in the maze to allow other rocks and logs to pass and open further areas.
While this may all sound like good fun, there game also comes packaged with equal number of “stealth” missions, which – much like Madagascar: Operation Penguin – contain a handful of annoying and silly “avoid the humans” and “distract the humans” puzzles. While this may have seemed like fun the last time around, I found it horribly tedious – not hard, mind you…simply tedious.
Navigating the menu is a bit difficult to comprehend at first, but once you realize the central forest area is a large hub with hollow logs leading off to the different levels and options menus, it makes a bit more sense, and actually is quite interesting.
As mentioned, the gameplay is played from an isometric viewpoint, much like you would see in a Metal Gear Solid title. The overall look is a bit grainy and muted, and the characters often blend into the grassy foliage a bit too easily. The character animations are sound for sprite-based visuals, and while the game is not anywhere near as polished as its DS big brother, it does its best to maintain the cartoony feel of the movie.
Over the Hedge really falls flat in the sound department – more from lack of sound than anything. The cute background ditty does little to make up for the lack of the superior voice acting from the DS version of the game.
By now I know not to expect much from the sound quality of a GBA game compared to, well…any other medium, but something to break the doldrums would have been nice.
I hate to quit harping on the DS version of Over the Hedge, but if you played both the DS and GBA versions in a very short amount of time like I have, you would also be astonished at how different both games are, and for almost the same price.
Over the Hedge for the GBA will suit the younger set much better than for the hardened games, but the required reading might make that a bit hard to accomplish. I know my kids (five and four) were able to pick up the gameplay much quicker on the GBA than in the full 3D of the DS, but I spent a lot of time reading text box upon text box for them while they played.
Over the Hedge is far from an impressive game, especially given its ancestry and other current versions. It is apparent that amongst the handhelds, most of the attention was given to the DS version of the game, and the GBA version was simply a cookie-cutter rehash of last year’s Operation Penguin from the Madagascar camp.
Still, it does get the job done, and there is enjoyment to be had on a rainy day – just don’t expect to be blown away.