sunnuntai 22. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Finding Nemo (2003)

GENRE(S): Action / Adventure
RELEASED: May 2003
DEVELOPER(S): Traveller's Tales, Vicarious Visions (GBA)

Pixar's fifth full-length feature Finding Nemo is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed animated movies of all time. As a trivia note, it's good to mention that the DVD of the movie is the best-selling home video of all time. What to make of a video game based on Finding Nemo without even trying it? Can it possibly be half decent? I can't imagine. Let's find out.

Easy as clownfish pie

Ever since his flock was attacked and killed by a barracuda, the cowardly clownfish Marlin has become extremely overprotective of his only surviving child, the wild and carefree Nemo. When an Australian deep sea diver manages to capture Nemo, Marlin has no choice but to overcome his fear of the ocean and track his son down, with the help of a kind-hearted tang named Dory, who suffers from short-term memory loss.

It's been ages since I last watched Finding Nemo, it's somewhat of a good thing that the game is so faithful to the movie, since it helped me to remember the plot and reimagine the movie. I'm going to watch it tonight, though, since it's so great and if this game succeeded in something, it reminded me of the movie's greatness. The first thing that bothered me about the game before I even took it for a spin was that it's an underwater game. I've never played a fully satisfactory underwater "platformer" before... and I still haven't. Finding Nemo's decent, though - it's a surprisingly innovative, relaxing title and it should appeal to kids. However, it's exclusively a kids' game. It's incredibly easy and simple. It has a few frustrating moments, but beating it to the absolute hilt still won't take more than a few hours.

Finding Nemo is not quite as visually impressive as I thought it would be, but basically it looks all right. It's a very colourful game with nice, colourful and detailed sprites. There are some nice backgrounds - the aquarium looks awesome - but most of them are quite bland. The Mode 7 "races" are quite messy, but at least the framerate's up to par. The music's actually very good, it's a brand new mix of tunes from the German Shin'en Multimedia studio. Very relaxing, pleasant stuff.

An ocean of rough pixels.
There are 12 levels in this game and the gameplay changes constantly. A standard level in this game requires you to navigate an underwater structure as either Nemo or Marlin, solve a few very easy puzzles, break some boulders, fight off currents, and sometimes drag some items around. Most of the time, you have a companion or a few of them, who do NOTHING. Actually, you cannot attack enemies in the game at all, and there aren't a lot of them to begin with, there are non-organic hazards just about everywhere, though. In the beginning, it's not very clear which ones hurt you and which don't. Hauling stuff around is the most frustrating element of the game, double that if you need to swim against a current while doing it. You need rocks and pearls to make progress in the game, and if an enemy manages to hit you while you're carrying something, the item drops and it just might disappear permanently. This means that you need to find some way to kill yourself and start over. Luckily the levels aren't that long and you have infinite lives, otherwise this would kill, utterly destroy, the game.

The only things for you to collect in the game are star rings. You'll sometimes find these star rings floating around, but the most common way to collect them is to swim through bubble rings. Swimming through ten of them results in one star ring deposited in your bank. These star rings are practically chances for a very easy, 12-card memory game that follows each level. To completely beat the game, you need to conquer each memory challenge. Removing all cards reveals a mosaic related to the previous level, which goes to your gallery. So, in the end, you should have unlocked 12 pictures. If you haven't, just check the ones that are missing, replay the corresponding levels, beat the memory games, and that's it. Nice and easy.

In addition to the standard puzzle-oriented navigation levels, there are a few different ones. There are two Mode 7 "races", which don't need to be won and they can't be won, you're just supposed to keep up with the leader and swim through the rings he or she leaves behind, it's kind of like those racing missions in Spyro the Dragon, only much, much easier. It's child's play, seriously, once you get a decent feel of the controls, which might prove a bit challenging. There's also a reverse Mode 7 sequence, very similar to the wildebeest stampede in The Lion King, in which you need to escape from a very large enemy for a given period of time. This is even easier, 'cause you don't have to even dodge the enemy's attacks; he can come straight at you but you won't be damaged as long as you remember to boost your speed at the right time. Then there's a traditional gauntlet run that would remind me of the collapsing Cave of Wonders in Aladdin, if it weren't so damn simple to conquer. Finally, there's a quite frustrating level that requires you to take part in three different, gradually toughening minigames. Only one of those minigames has a physical strategy, but you can only play each game three times before you're prompted to take part in another. In other words, you need to play them all and those minigames are where the underwater setting, the lacking controls and dynamics of the game really rear head. It's supposed to be a fun level and it looks like one, but it just doesn't work the way it's supposed to. You'll see what I mean, if you happen to come across this game.

Crush rules.
Although some levels will give you reason to curse, it's only because they're so damn frustrating, not difficult at all. This game is all about relaxation for adults that bother. You'd like to think that it becomes more challenging towards the end, but the difficulty level never increases. It's sometimes hard to figure out what you're supposed to do, and the control is hard from the beginning to the end, but rest assured; you're going to beat this game in just a couple of hours, even if you're half asleep. After you've gotten all the pictures from the memory games (number five might prove remotely difficult since you don't have much time to collect star rings), there's simply nothing left to do. This is the kind of game I'm willing to bet a lot of currently 12- to 14-year olds name as the first game they ever completed.

After finishing Finding Nemo and giving it a lot of thought, I just can't be bitter. It has some very crappy and hollow moments, it's incredibly easy, there's not one bit of tension in it - except maybe for two seconds during the shark chase - but there's nothing terribly wrong with it. I'm sure a lot of kids would find it entertaining, even if just that once. Check the game out if you have kids and happen to stumble on it in a mid-price bin. 

SOUND : 8.9


a.k.a. Disney's Finding Nemo

GameRankings: 68.50% (GBA), 61.84% (GCN), 65.50% (PC), 64.70% (PS2), 63.05% (Xbox)

THQ published two sequels to the Game Boy Advance version. Finding Nemo: The Continuing Adventures was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2004, and Finding Nemo: Escape to the Big Blue was released on the Nintendo DS in 2006. The two games share a similar storyline.

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