Can Shrek be close to 10 years old? At that time, we were still living off the highs of Toy Story, and the traditional Disney animation films that other studios including Dreamworks were trying to imitate and compete. Then came Shrek, the ultimate anti-hero in an anti-feel good fairy tale story. It didn’t have a pop singer crooning a romantic ballad. Instead, it had Smash Mouth’s All Star. Was it that long ago that we considered Shrek innovative and fresh?
Shrek Forever After is the latest, and I’m putting it in the most positive manner, retread in the universe of Far Far Away. You see, Shrek is hitting a mid life crisis of some sort now and strolls into his children’s one year old birthday party. When the villagers tease him and say he’s more of a comedy act than a scary ogre, he gets into an argument with Fiona and exclaims things were better back in the swamp. When he leaves the party, he runs into Rumplestiltskin who asks him to give up a day to live a day back in his bachelor’s paradise. Shrek, unaware of Rumplestiltskin’s ulterior motives, agrees and is warped back to a time of – shall we call it Shrek Zero: The Prequel.
In the alternate reality, Far Far Away is angry at Shrek and the villagers come and attack him as he’s now lost his celebrity status. Shrek has to go through the motions of saving Fiona (again). He meets Donkey (again) and tries to corral Puss into action (again) to beat the Dragon (again) and eventually thwart Rumplestiltskin’s trickery to get back to the original Far Far away. In the course of this, you’ll find your usual platform game with copious amounts of jumping, collecting coins, treasure, keys to bonus levels and some witty interesting side scripts.
Let’s go over the best part about this game. It’s the cutscenes and the humour. I thoroughly enjoyed the sarcasm even though Shrek and his pals are not voiced by the same Hollywood stars as the movie. But they were interesting and I got the gist of the story from the movie simply by playing the game. The mini-games are also pretty fun and serve as a break between the levels.
The primary level design, however, is fairly bland. There is some attempt to mimic other console platform games by having racing type levels such as a boulder coming down your way and you run towards the screen. But all that seems to do is speed up the tedium and frustration because there are rampant clipping problems in the game. Shrek falls through what seems to be solid ground and it happens at nearly every juncture of the game; cliffs, shorelines, edges of boats, floating platforms, the few steps before an open pit. And not only that, collision detection is also suspect. So when you’re sure you hit an enemy with your punches, you’ll see your punch slide right through the character. Then there’s also the camera. For the majority of the game, most of the action is from behind the back. This is probably the best way to play the game. However, as you encounter different scenarios, you’ll find yourself playing the game looking sideways or at the front of the character (a la the boulder incident). But the camera then starts focusing on strange parts of the screen. In the boulder sequence, there were two rocks on each side of the gauntlet that would stop the boulder. I, being the klutz that I am, ran Shrek straight into one of these rocks and the game zoomed in on the rock. Not being able to see Shrek, I lost another life because the boulder came crashing on me.
Usually, I’d find this forgivable if it was one level; perhaps it was more difficult or pushing the boundaries of the hardware. But the fact is, you’ll constantly find yourself pulling your hair out with these bugs. I have to believe this game was rushed to the market to meet the movie’s release. The bugs simply make this game unplayable for anyone except the most committed Shrek fan.
From a presentation standpoint, I liked Shrek Forever After. Shrek Forever After is more than a pretty package though. Gameloft has thrown in some console type things including achievements that you can upload to their service called Gameloft Live. And like many games these days, you can play music from your own iPod music library rather than hear all the sounds that come with the game. Smash Mouth’s All Star might be a good choice.
Being a Shrek fan, I can overlook the franchise’s tired decade old retread of its original story. But I can’t overlook the technical defects that make the gameplay a chore instead of something fun. This time I wished I could stay far away from Far Far Away.