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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

(Activision; US: 4 Nov 2008)

The Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa trailers have yet to convince me that the movie is worth seeing.  However, I have heard that it was “actually pretty entertaining”.  That’s a direct quote from my uncle.  He went because he wanted to get out of the house and watch a movie.  Then he remembered that he has kids and couldn’t/shouldn’t take them to see the new James Bond flick.  Instead, he had to settle for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.  The always noted/never seen studio execs know that children under the age of 10 can’t go to see movies by themselves these days, so the films that target children generally have enough bits to entertain the adults that are inevitably accompanying those children.  I can see how he could have found it better than he expected.


After seeing the movie, my uncle still didn’t feel like going home.  He took my cousins to the local electronics retailer so that they could bang on the Rock Band drums, allowing him the opportunity to check out the dishwasher sale.  He was, of course, looking to single-handedly stimulate our economy.  However, on their way to the video game section, my cousins saw the video game for the movie that they had just seen.  They just had to have the game so that they could actively experience the same scenes they passively enjoyed just minutes before.  My uncle didn’t stand a chance.  My cousins took the game home.  From what I hear, they spent the whole ride back staring at the cover with jubilant smiles on their faces.


Then they started playing Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.  The jubilant smiles turned into blank stares of regret.  The blank stares of regret were finally relieved when my aunt notified them that one of their friend’s parents called about hanging out, and they finally had a good reason to go do something else.  My uncle wanted to know what he had just invested in and started playing the game.  He was immediately driven into a catatonic state.  As it turns out, even though the movie has something in it for adults, the video game accompanying it definitely does not.


This is odd.  This game has an E10 rating from the ESRB, which means the contents of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa are only suitable for gamers aged ten and up.  I don’t know anyone older than ten who would enjoy this game, and anyone younger than ten will undoubtedly find portions of it frustrating, such as controlling a giraffe who is trying to balance himself on a bowling ball.


The good thing about Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is that there are minigames where multiple people can play.  At least my cousins can play portions of this game together.  Of course, they’d probably end up fighting anyway.


The reason for the anecdotes above is that there is just not much game here to talk about.  The people who are going to buy this are going to be doing exactly what my uncle and cousins were doing: shopping around after watching the movie and happening to glance upon a familiar title in an otherwise unfamiliar world.  I know this because my mom used to do this with other kinds of merchandise.  “Oh, you liked the terminator movies, how’s about an action figure where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face gets blown off?”  Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is just another merchandising opportunity, and video games are the new action figures and Barbies.  They’re like Barbies that poison you figuratively, rather than literally.


There are a lot of these movie-based games flooding the market, and there is really nothing wrong with their prevalence, but these aren’t the kind of games that are going to get kids into videogames.  If anything, they might actually turn them off of them.  This could be what Dreamworks had in mind when they licensed the rights to the game.  The, um, studio execs (in this case I guess it would be Spielberg) are probably thinking something along the lines of “if only we can get kids to quit playing video games while simultaneously downloading our movies…hmmm.  Oh, I got it, let’s make a terrible video game incorporating our newest Madagascar movie.”


There are some amusing tidbits that kids will enjoy: the cut scenes.  But as I said before and will repeat, there is nothing for anyone else.


A warning to all the parents out there: Don’t take your kids to Target/Best Buy/Wal-Mart/Circuit City (the ones that still exist)/local grocery store after watching a movie with them.  You are just going to end up taking home a video game that no one in your family will be capable of/have the desire of finishing.  Even if it’s really short, like Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.

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