Average in every respect and woefully proud of it. It’s a rent at best, but easily avoidable. Save your money and see the film
You have to feel for Heavy Iron Studios, because while their bank balance is bulging, their ‘gaming-soul’ has been crushed. As is customary with any AAA film, a botch-job video game accompanies its release. Disney Pixar’s latest animated epic, WALL-E is going down a treat in the cinema and rightfully so. It’s a tremendous film that rivals Toy Story in quality and humour. While we hold the film with utmost respect, the video game counterpart is hardly high on our wish list. With childlike naivety, we approached this latest movie-tie-in with cautious optimism. Surely it will try and be unique? It can’t be another milking of the preverbal cash cow? Religion asks us to have faith, so why not gaming?
The easiest place to begin is Wall-E’s target demographic. As with every other movie game, the intended player is either seven years old or fifty six. This is a game to ply onto your son in an effort to pass on your gaming heritage. It won’t offend, confuse or cause controversy. Anyone with a serious interest in gaming will simply mock those throwing cash down a metaphorical drain. Published under THQ’s ‘Play’ label, Wall-E makes no attempt to change anything. It’s not waving its hands about to gain attention. The Gears of War fans will continue fragging over Xbox Live and the World of Warcraft veterans won’t even be aware of what Wall-E is. This is a game for the fans; it’s a must that you’ve seen the film or it’ll spoil your future viewing. Scoff if you must, but Wall-E doesn’t have any delusions of self-grandeur.
Simple platforming, on the rails racing sections and supposed exploration are gaming’s greatest components watered down. From a hardcore perspective, Wall-E is an introduction to gaming. If there was a boot-camp for new recruits, this is where you’d start. It’s no different than the early Mega Drive movie titles. ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Aladdin’ come to mind. The main difference between classic movie games and modern titles is a fun factor. They were simple, yet hugely addictive. The key factor was that they were fun. Over the years, the gaming scene has changed. There’s an increased emphasis on complexity and graphical prowess. Sadly, every game attempts to mimic with big boys of gaming and sometimes it just doesn’t work which in turn results in a catch-22 situation. You can’t create a simple platforming title (with a movie licence) as the appeal isn’t there anymore. Wall-E has failed before it’s even had a chance to prove itself.
The game follows an expanded version of the film’s plot. It’s not worth spoiling in case you’re going to the cinema to see it. It removes any sense of suspense, intrigue or excitement as you’ve already experienced it. The narrative does of course have structure, but it seems out of place. When the details are taken out of context, (removed from the movie theatre) it seems lucid and poorly constructed.
For the uninitiated Wall-E is all about a tiny robot. Far into the future, mankind has abandoned earth. Years of humans polluting the atmosphere, dumping non-biodegradable rubbish and generally being wasteful has taken its toll. The human race has undergone an exodus into space leaving earth’s cleanup in the hands of robots, Wall-E units. Unsurprisingly they’ve gradually broken down over time until there’s only one left on earth, the protagonist. The exposure to human artefacts and culture has led to Wall-E developing a personality. It’s not exactly game material, but it does the job. The game tells the story via cut scenes which struggle with the framerate. We played the Xbox 360 version so it could just be a case of attempting to do too much.
The unusual thing is that when you look at the game, it hardly breaks the graphics barrier. The Xbox 360 version does indeed look nice, mimicking the film’s style to a decent standard, but when you take into consideration other games on the market; it’s difficult to see why it struggles. The Wall-E and Eve models are rendered to a high level of detail, yet the environments are repetitive and blurry. The textures lack a sense of crispness. Its overall visual performance is bland. You don’t sit back and drop your mouth in amazement. It does the job of representing the movie interactively and in reality little else is needed. It’s cruel to criticise Wall-E for poor craftsmanship, but the world of gaming is a harsh place. The sound design is so-so with the sound effects over used and a score that quickly gets on your nerves.
Gameplay is equally simplistic. Chiefly aimed at a young audience, you’re tasked with jumping around levels, throwing trash cubes and collecting objects. The platforming isn’t challenging even for youngsters. It usually means avoiding a harmful section of liquid. Landing in it will damage you and eventually kill you if you hang around too long. Any sense of risk is removed by the checkpoint system with respawn points generously interspersed. If you damage your Wall-E you can recharge his health at the solar stations littered around the levels.
Occasionally you’ll face an immovable obstacle or puzzle. The solution involves creating the relevant cube of rubbish (of which three can be carried) and using the auto-lock-on to hit a target. The puzzles are blindingly obvious and simple trial and error will get you past any that pose a problem. There’s your standard cube that’s used to simply hit targets, an electric cube to power up terminals and a heavy cube to weigh down scales. It’s not taxing on the brain as the game rarely even attempts to challenge you.
Occasionally the game spices things up with some fast paced tunnel navigation. When you’re in control of Eve you’ll be sent flying down tunnels and asked to hold the fire button to clear the way of potential obstacles. It’s an attempt to add some pace and urgency to a game that’s drearily slow. The gameplay is a rinse and repeat affair. Once you’ve learned the basics, Wall-E makes little attempt to deviate from tried and tested game design. There’s the odd bit of concept art to collect, but little reward for actually doing so. It’s an overused method of elongating a short game.
It’s the same old story; rent Wall-E to keep the kids entertained during half time. You’ll be safe in the knowledge that the bright colours and child-friendly plot will keep them captivated. There’s no point looking at it from a hardcore perspective, as it was never meant to be. Average in every respect and woefully proud of it. It’s a rent at best, but easily avoidable. Save your money and see the film.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Hearing the game chirps Waaaali-E in cute fashion.