Based upon the 2001 animated film Shrek, Shrek - Hassle At The Castle is one of a slew of games that bares the Shrek name. However this is the only one that vaguely follows the storyline of the movie, in which Shrek must travel to redeem his swamp from the settlers that have inhabited it. Along the way he meets many fairytale characters from little red riding hood to one of the three pigs. You also get the chance to play one of three characters from the movie, Shrek, Donkey or Princess Fiona. The inclusion of multiple characters was what I thought to be a novice idea, giving the player a more involved and different view of the game and its levels.
Being a moderate fan (and owner) of the actual movie I had mixed opinions before reviewing the game. The majority of games based on a movie rarely work and for the most part are just trying to cash in on the movie’s successes. Shrek – Hassle In The Castle is the 2nd outing for Shrek on the Gameboy Advance. The first being Shrek - Swamp Cart Speedway. Which also made me a bit curious as to the games motives, movie cash in? Or game classic? Yet at first I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. From the start you can see that the developers spent a lot of time designing the character visuals; too many times I came across movie based games that have barely recognizable characters that do not even share a likeness to its movie counterpart, yet every detail seemed to have been duplicated and mastered. The character's vivid colors and body movements were depicted flawlessly. The initial levels are each as different and colorful as the next, it seemed as though a lot of effort has gone into making the levels look and feel just as they did in the movie. This is a major bonus as many games try but often fail. There is a total of 6 levels each composed of 3 sub levels, ranging from Shrek’s swamp to Duloc castle and the dragon's lair.
Game play has also been swayed from the usual platform game in which you run, shoot, then run some more. Each of the levels has a purpose and a goal, while some characters are tailored for certain levels and perform better than others, thus making the game seem more involving rather then always playing as the same character from start to end. However as you progress further into the game the levels seem to heavily rely on the same 3 goals, rescue, catch and run. In each out of the six levels you have to either rescue someone from something, be it donkey from his would-be capturers to little red riding hood and the wolves. Sometimes it feels like you are redoing the same levels over and over with just a new backdrop and obstacles, thus really let the game down and adding less fun and playability to the game. Each character has its own unique moves. Head butts, punches and kicks are all thrown in as well as special moves that include an ear-bashing belch. A small but major let down for me was the dash control; in some levels you have to race opponents but the controls do not allow you to dash and jump at the same time which ends up in a long and frustrating button bashing period, it gets easier once you have mastered the art of dash and jump but ideally it would be nice not to be able to dash and jump at once. Shrek’s enemies vary from pitchfork carrying villagers to sword welding knights. Often they do not seem to change from level to level, which at first seemed a major flaw in the game, however what you do seem to notice is that they are portrayed differently: some have changed weapons or color scheme or even their clothes. In each level it seems as if they have evolved from what you first battled against. This gives you the impression that your opponents grow as they pursue you on your quest. It is also quite misleading as you think they are the same enemy, but they have different movements and actions which you may have gotten used to in the previous level, which adds for a more fulfilling gaming experience.
The game sound is of a high standard that at first does not draw your attention away from the game play too much. However most of the background sound that you experience when you progress further into the game sounds too similar and bland which makes you feel that you are replaying the same level over and over again. Unfortunately the same sound effects are used for each character’s moves; that makes the added attraction of playing different characters seem rudimentary.
What on the outside seems like an innovative and enjoyable game gets weaker and weaker the more you play, its bright and silky graphics grip you as you begin your voyage but that’s really as far as it goes, the game play gets rough and lost which makes it hard to progress and complete each level. One of the main let downs of the game is its control system. At first it seems easy and seamless but as you move onto the harder levels you find that the controls you once loved just don’t cut it. The music is enjoyable to listen to at first, but as each tune abruptly mixes into the next it gets a little annoying and repetitive. The only real up side that the game has to offer is its visuals which are alive and vibrant, if you enjoyed the movie and are thinking of purchasing Hassle In The Castle then you might want to think again, it offers no real flavor for the mature gamer. If you are looking for something to keep the kids quiet on a rainy day then Shrek – Hassle in the Castle may be right up your alley, otherwise I would suggest saving your hard earned dough for something else.