Madagascar Review

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Graphics: 6.0
Sound : 7.5
Gameplay : 8.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 7.5
Review by Bryan Sharp
The story in Madagascar involves a gang of scheming penguins inspiring a daring zoo escape, and 4 lifelong animal friends find themselves on an adventure that takes them from urban jungle to island jungle. On a thrill ride that covers half the planet the 4 pals embark on a wild and wonderful animal adventure. Tackling 11 action-packed chapters, based on the upcoming animated blockbuster of the same name, the animal friends go from the mean streets of New York City to the untamed jungle canopies of Madagascar.

When a videogame shares a movie’s title it is usually approached with more skepticism than if it were an original game without a twin storming the box office. The reason for this could be the feeling that a game titled Madagascar is little more than another way to make money on the brand name, or another way to draw attention to an accompanying movie with the same title. This may be the main goal of any joint movie/videogame release, but it does not automatically seal a game’s fate. Madagascar may be successfully treading water at movie theaters, but the PlayStation 2 iteration is certainly more than able to swim of its own accord.

It’s perhaps harder to formulate a fair review for a game geared more towards kids than adults. Personally speaking, and as a seasoned videogame player, there are things in this game that bothered me, but didn’t seem to dissuade my younger sister when she played it. For example, the graphics are nothing special, but they get the job done well enough. There is some choppiness around the edges of characters and buildings, but the colors are bright and the animation is crisp. The visuals attributes don’t break any boundaries but, then again, they certainly don’t detract from the overall experience.

The atmosphere created by the character voices and personalities is the one element that benefits Madagascar the most. The voices are provided by ‘soundalike’ actors that mirror the celebrity voices occupying the movie. Chris Rock provides the voice of Marty the zebra in the movie version of Madagascar but neither he, nor any other member of the cast, was onboard for the game. This is another instance of how an older player may notice something a younger player would miss. In fairness, Marty doesn’t sound as though he’s voiced by Chris Rock, but then again, it sort of sounds like him—at least enough so a younger, less experienced, player might not notice. Coming from someone who’s seen Chris’s standup comedy over and over again, that’s a pretty good endorsement.

The main characters of the game are also able to interact with a variety of other animals. The exchanges between the player’s character and the many creatures that inhabit the game serve to break up the gameplay with funny voices and humor. That said, the jokes told by the monkeys are not really so funny but, once again, this is a kids’ videogame and sometimes a funny voice can go a long way. Altogether, the sound keeps the game moving, and by including a lot of characters the player always has something to keep his or her attention.

Kids are usually given less credit than they deserve, but here Madagascar makes the effort to treat a younger audience like young adults rather than babies. This means the game doesn’t waste time explaining mundane things and toddling through levels; though there are times when the game’s next step isn’t perhaps fully explained and some creative thinking is required to figure out what to do.

Madagascar is also packed with mini-games and sub-plots that serve to freshen up the gameplay and whip some air beneath the main adventure when it gets bogged down. Go for the high score in Island Shuffleboard, shoot a round of Tiki Golf on a variety of tropical courses, or even groove along with the beat in the Lemur Rave. There is also a lot of educational material hidden just under the surface during these mini-games. During one you can play as a penguin and catch fish in a fountain; the fish are color-coded and the number you must catch constantly changes. Through this mini-game, a younger player can learn color differentiation and practice counting without even realizing it. All the content in Madagascar contains some form of latent education, whether it’s gathering a certain number of rings, or finding creative ways to trick the zoo guards. When a game is geared more towards a younger audience it is refreshing to see efforts made to teach as well as simply entertain.

However, the included mini-games don’t take anything away from the main plot in Madagascar. The playable characters, Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippo all have different upgrade-friendly animal instincts and abilities for separate gameplay situations. For example, Gloria can execute a bulldozer charge and a butt bounce, whereas Marty utilizes his sneak ability, back kicks and long jumps. Controlling the action is easy to learn and each character gains more abilities by gathering special cards along the way. Madagascar relies more on solid structure than fancy controls, and the game does better because of it. This is a game where solving simple puzzles and facing simple enemies is king. The basic infrastructure keeps the focus on the story and it is hard to become either frustrated or sidetracked.

Madagascar certainly delivers for the younger demographic, but those older players may reach critical boredom pretty early on in the game. With all the seemingly ‘inappropriate’ game choices available on today’s market, a parent or sibling could do a lot worse than pick up a copy of Madagascar for a smaller loved one.