Sabrina The Teenage Witch: Potion Commotion is undeniably a
tongue-twister for the Game Boy Advance. It's based on, if you haven't
guessed it already, the spells and witchcraft show on television with
charming Sabrina and the talking cat. Many of these female-lead
television shows launched near the turn of the century when films like
Erin Brockovich were hot and feminism was in vogue. Now, if a show were
launched, it'd probably be about war, dark clouds and impending storms.
But Commotion is the opposite of that. It's a cheery game, light like a
soufflé. Unfortunately, while it may possess a long and complex title,
it's anything but a long and complex game.
It turns out the developers stuck by with a conservative Game Boy
Advance motif. Commotion is a side-scrolling action-adventure title.
It's not heavy on action but features the requisite platform jumping
sequences and obstacles to make Sabrina's life difficult. You're guided
by Salem, the black cat who shows you the ropes at first and pretty much
acts as your guardian angel. You go around collecting pieces of
parchment that contribute to a witch's spell and there's a modicum of
character progression in that Sabrina becomes increasingly powerful with
each spell she learns.
The goal, however, of the entire game is to collect items that will make
a potion to save the world from Aunt Hilda's wily destructive spells.
Aunt Hilda, according to the story, is stuck in a bind for romance. And
why wouldn't she? She looks hideous and got kicked off the show too so
I imagine this is one of her scheming ways to get back into the
television show. At any rate, the problems all ensue out of her desire
to find the perfect guy, which sets up the impetus for Sabrina and
Salem's own little romp.
There are four different thematic worlds to go through and each is
divided into four more stages to give a total of sixteen levels.
Commotion punctuates the platform action with prosaic mini puzzles. For
example, while you're jumping around to collect pieces of spells, you
also get to partake in a friendly game of concentration. Yes, it's
that concentration where you flip cards and try to find matching
The audio and visuals in Commotion are actually not bad. However, the
dialogue and scripting is. This attacks one of the most important
precepts of the Sabrina franchise. The quintessential reason why shows
like Sabrina, Charmed and Buffy continue to do so well on television is
because of the smart, chic and clever dialogue. Unfortunately, the
tête-à-tête between Salem and Sabrina here doesn't exhibit any of the
chemistry found on the show. Some sound bites might have helped and
after seeing a phenomenal and riveting narrative play out on the Game
Boy Advance (here, I'm referring to Broken Sword), there's really no
excuse to skimp on the dialogue just because you have limited real
Taken out of context, Commotion is a fairly bland platform game that is
interspersed with mini-games that manage to turn out even blander.
Given that prospect, this is one witch hunt that I'd be willing to pass
up on. If I wanted to play concentration, I could do so in comfort on a
PDA or cell phone. After all this commotion (pun intended), I'm
reminded of Henry James' horror novel, The Turn of the Screw, when
they're describing both the governess and the housekeeper as a witch's
brew versus a clear sauce pan. You all know what that metaphor suggests
when they're put together. Commotion is decidedly the clear sauce pan.