PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Shrek the Third

Kevin Garcia

Is there a rule that decrees all movie-based games be mediocre?


Publisher: Activision
Genres: Action
Price: $49.99
Multimedia: Shrek the Third
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed); Wii; PlayStation 2; PlayStation Portable; Nintendo DS; Game Boy Advance; PC
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB rating: Everyone 10+
Developer: 7
US release date: 2007-05-14
Developer website

When I first watched Shrek the Third -- seeing the princesses fight through hordes of bad guys, watching Artie earn his kinghood, watching Shrek trade barbs with Charming –- I thought, "man, this would make for a great video game."

Sadly, it didn't. Is there a rule that decrees all movie-based games be mediocre?

Shrek the Third, the game, is not a bad game, but it isn't good either. For what it is -- a chance for game companies to cash-in on a movie's success -- it's alright and can keep kids entertained for a bit, but it plays like it was put together by the lowest bidder. Strangely enough, it wasn't.

Activision, which touts itself as makers of the most popular children's video game franchises, had dozens of different teams working on this game, had the groundwork laid by the Dreamworks films and met various levels of success with Shrek franchise games like Super Slam and Smash n' Crash Racing, but it seems like they just couldn't find the effort to put into this game. Y'know, with all these licensed games out there, you'd think someone in a dark office somewhere would realize that if they just focused on "one game per movie" rather than spreading themselves thin over a dozen spinoffs and knockoffs, they might actually make more money.

Of course, it helps if the movie the game is based on was good, but Shrek the Third is the weakest of the trilogy. It wasn't a bad film, per se, but it felt like it was missing something -- more plot, more humor -- something. One can't help but notice how some elements, most notably the princesses' escape, seem made for a video game. I'm glad to report that Sleeping Beauty is a playable character in the game, but she doesn't use the fall-down attack from the movie. If only the other girls made it in as well.

In fact, while the movie's premise -- a group of guys go for an adventure away while a group of girls have an adventure at home -- seems perfect for a multiplayer adventure game, the makers of this game seem not to have noticed. It's a shame, really, because children, believe it or not, like playing together. The game for Shrek 2 was decent, and made an effort to include the much-sought-after party element to the adventure mode by allowing for four-player cooperative modes, but Shrek the Third's game misses out.

That doesn't mean the party element has been dropped altogether. Mini-games and multiplayer events are added, and will likely be the main draw for young players. "Castle Capture" is a fun 3-D version of the classic missile-launching games where each player must estimate the perfect trajectory to destroy the other's fort. This is easily the most polished sub-game. "Catacombs Leap" takes the main game's annoying physics (I'll get to that in a minute) and turns them into a race. "Ships Ahoy" is a fun time killer, as players see who can take out the most pirate ships (or get the score-winning shot after another player has done the hard work). "Shooting gallery" is basically the same thing, with less guess work and faster targets. "Frog Herder" seems lamest at first, as one of Shrek's sidekicks must shoo frogs toward a pond, but the exploding mushrooms and lovesick amphibians can get a laugh out of younger players. Finally, "Shrekleboard" combines the fun of shuffleboard with the Shrekiness of, well, Shrek. The less said about that, the better.

A sleepy shrek charges the camera

The main adventure game, with which new multiplayer characters, costumes, and other goodies can be unlocked, is intended to be the main fun of the game, but it falls miserably short. Bad camera angles, sloppy frame rates, poor character animation, horrible physics and the occasional un-Shrek-like character design results in one sad mess. When the camera changes, the directions shift, causing characters to suddenly turn backwards in midair if a player was jumping forward when the camera shifted. Players will routinely find themselves floating near some platforms yet falling through others. The main characters are horribly built with no effort whatsoever put into facial expressions or body movements. Character designs are decent, though some non-speaking characters look like they were designed for a Lord of the Rings tie-in rather than a Shrek one. The game was designed, I assume, for young children, and the adventure and straightforward button actions are simple enough, but the unintentional difficulty may drive some children away. Quickly.

That said, what saves this mediocre game from being an outright bad game is the clever writing and overall fun game design. Cut scenes are cleverly animated and voice acted. New elements add a lot to the story, especially the inclusion of the Lady in the Lake (who would've fit in perfectly with the movie). A Madagascar penguin even makes a cameo (voiced briefly by Madagascar director Tom McGrath) -- it seems you can't have a children's property without penguins these days.

Some elements of the game's design are also pretty clever. Unlockable elements must be "purchased" from the game's Gift Shop using coins players earn by completing skill-based "Quests" built into each level. This novel approach helps add replay value to an otherwise so-so platformer. By far the most ingenious addition is the option of "commentary," voiced by the main characters and characters not otherwise in the game, like the Three Little Pigs and Cinderella. These short commentaries only take up about a minute or so of gameplay but they add a little of that metafictional fourth-wall-breaching comedy that Shrek is famous for.

The writing is actually pretty good, particularly the character dialogue. The story diverges a bit from the main film; most notably it leaves out the clichéd body-swapping gag and shortens the ending. This doesn't hurt the plot (in fact, the film didn't need those parts either), and the added story elements actually make the story a little more exciting and unpredictable. This seems to be due to two writers I've never heard of: Jim Dunn and Sam Ernst. Near as I can tell, the only other thing these guys have written is an independent film from 2004 called Myron's Movie. They, along with Adam Foshko and J.C. Conners, crafted a fun adaptation, even if the game itself didn't live up to the witty banter and interesting story. It also helps that Monty Python alum John Cleese stepped in as narrator, that film voices Cody Cameron (Pinocchio) and Conrad Vernon (Gingy) joined the action and that Shrek game veterans like Mark Moseley, Holly Fields, Michael Gough, Andre Sogliuzzo and James Arnold Taylor also returned to lend familiar voices to the franchise.

Strangely enough, everyone I just mentioned is listed near the very bottom of the game's rather lengthy credits scroll.

It's worth mentioning that the game includes a demo for The Bee Movie Game. The demo seems, appropriately enough, designed for some of the youngest console system players with simple and easy to follow up-down button instructions that trigger film-style animation. I'm not sure if the whole game will be this way, but it would be refreshing to have a children's game that really young children could actually play. Most importantly, the demo has nearly film-quality graphics and the voice of Jerry Seinfeld!

Overall, Shrek the Third is a decent console game, although it doesn't live up to current (or last) generation console standards. It's worth playing if you need to see everything Shrek, but if I were a video game company, I'd try polishing the next one up more to have something I could be proud of. At least include gameplay that can live up to the writing.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.