Review / Wall-E (PS3)

I won’t lie, I’m a huge fan of Pixar’s movies and I’m always intrigued to see how movie IPs in general make the jump into videogames. So, when given the chance to review THQ’s adaption of the latest cinematic offering from Pixar, Wall-E, the first thing I did was toddle off to my local cinema to catch the movie ahead of playing the game.

For the uninitiated here’s a quick capsule review of the plot: Wall-E is the last of an army waste compacting robots left on Earth to tidy up while the rest of humanity flies around and gets fat in a big spaceship. Wall-E’s lonely life is brutally interrupted when a iPod sleek, shiny female (we assume) robot by the name of EVE arrives to check for signs of life on Earth. Wall-E and EVE embark on an epic quest to bring news of life back to the absentee humans so they can recolonize the planet and live happily ever after.

Caught between a plot and a hard place. After seeing the film (and being charmed and mesmerized I must add) I went into the game expecting a few things. Primarily: a carbon copy of the plot with a handful of puzzles and mini-games thrown in for good measure. The challenge of making a game based on Wall-E is that it is unlike any other film in its genre. Sombre, haunting whilst sometimes charming, the story is a far cry from the antics and adventures of Finding Nemo or Toy Story. With this in mind, any attempt at making a down the middle platformer based on the game would be comparable to trying to make a platformer based on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

When building a game around such a story there is the requirement to literally pull something out of nothing in terms of gameplay objectives and goals. Essentially, this is what the largest portion of Wall-E the game is. From start to finish, expect to be confronted with a myriad of off-the-production-line platformer puzzles to engage in with little innovation to speak of.

This is something of a catch-22 for THQ. This game is definitely for those who have already seen the film; there really is nothing here for people unfamiliar to Wall-E. Yet it takes so long to actually get into the action of the film because there is literally nothing there to get into for so long, ultimately disappointing those who have bought the game to re-live the experience they enjoyed so much in the cinema.

A little love goes a long way. Wall-E the movie is stunning to look at, make no mistake. The aesthetic contrast between the dilapidated planet Earth and the hi-tech, commercial binge of the space station framed by the cold bleakness of space is a thing of beauty. On top of this Pixar, the artisans of 3D animation that they are, have really outdone themselves in terms of graphical fidelity and animation. Even if you saw the film backwards with no sound it would still be just as gorgeous. However, whether it was through lack of time, funding or ambition, the game doesn’t make the most of the graphical cues and standards set by Pixar.

The greatest disappointment of this game is what it could have been, nay, should have been. Pixar are a producer of top quality films, they should shift some of that talent and brilliance down the product chain into their games and other adaptations. It seems like all the team behind this game were given was a budget, a deadline and a pre-release copy of the film. And it shows. The visuals are choppy, often harsh with frequent tearing. Furthermore, the textures are very low-res and the game drops frames like they’re going out of fashion. It is all of this that really prevents a great deal of the film’s magic making the cross-over succesfully.

This game isn’t a visual feast by any stretch and to be honest is two or three layers of polish short of a finished game. Yet, when producing a game for all major platforms (PS2 included) the kind of focus that goes into a dedicated title is obviously something that has to be forgone, especially if it has to tie in with the release of a movie.

What you must remember, however, is that this is judging the game by current-gen standards (i.e. PS3 and 360). When compared to similar titles on the PS2, Wii and the handhelds, there isn’t quite so much to complain about. Playing the game it certainly feels like THQ had the Wii in mind when developing. The minimal control scheme and accessible interface has the point and press fun of the Wii remote written all over it, not only that but the best adverts for the game (one of which I saw one in the cinema before the movie) feature the Wii primarily.

Honestly. Despite its short-comings I did find myself enjoying the game. Maybe it’s because I went into the game expecting a quick and easy copy of the film that captures in a nutshell all its landmarks and key moments; which is exactly what I got. This isn’t a genre defining title, and despite some obvious points of comparison, it isn’t the next Ratchet & Clank. There is also something else that games like Ratchet & Clank are that this isn’t and that’s dedicated IPs. This game is here to support the movie between theatrical and DVD release. It’s part of a wider merchandising strategy and for what its worth it fits in pretty snugly. Unless you are a big fan of the film I really wouldn’t recommend its for its own sake, but if you approach it with a cool head and don’t take it too seriously, as I did, it is possible to have a lot of fun with this title.

+

  • Easy and accessible game play
  • Makes a valiant effort at turning a long, lonely and sentimental story into something more engaging
  • Will pass the time until you can pick the film up on DVD/Blu-Ray

  • Visuals leave a lot to be desired, ’nuff said
  • Though it achieves what it sets out to do, it does so through every platformer cliche in the book
  • Takes a long while to get to those exciting bits from the film
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