I hate kids’ movies. Watching talking fish tell jokes for two hours is about as appealing to me as a root canal. And kids’ games? What the hell do I know about kids’ games? I don’t so much hate them as I am totally ignorant of them. I barely remember my childhood and the games I played were controlled by a single button. Normally, none of this is a problem, but when Shark Tales appeared before me, a kids’ game based on a kids’ movie, I was faced with a dilemma.
Luckily for me, I actually have a kid and knew where to acquire a few more for testing purposes. After a few phone calls and repeated assurances that I would return them more or less unscathed I had a selection of kids for use as test subjects.
After feeding them all an unhealthy amount of sugary snacks, I set them in front of the Xbox and sat back to take notes. Typical of all primates, the largest one, an 11-year-old girl, quickly asserted her dominance and claimed first turn. And several more after that before a squabble broke out and I was forced to wade into the fray and enforce the passing of the controller. Next up was a 7-year-old boy. He also seemed to enjoy himself, although he exhibited slightly more confusion over the objectives he was supposed to achieve. During all of this the youngest subject, a 2-year-old boy, was mesmerized by the action and thoroughly convinced he was controlling it all, despite the fact his controller was not only not plugged in but didn’t even go to the Xbox. I continued to watch for a while, then wandered off to let them play. Afterwards, I interviewed them.
The good news is, they all enjoyed it. All agreed that the graphics were “cool,” except the 2-year-old, who just smiled at me when I asked him. I took that as approval. The older kids called the game fun, but had trouble with the dancing segments, which were rated as “too hard” by the 11-year-old and “way too hard” by the 7-year-old. The music, a bunch of old rap used in the movie, was called lame by the 11-year-old but cool by the 7-year-old. The 2-year-old wandered off during the interview, but I don’t believe this was a reflection on the game so much as just what 2-year-olds do when interviewed.
After paying off the kids with more junk food I spent a few hours with the game myself. I found it ridiculously easy, except for the dancing segments, which were fairly difficult. A dance pad can be used for these segments, which could make them easier if you are a DDR wizard. I didn’t care for the music at all, but if that era of rap is your thing, you’ll be thrilled. The game consists of a nice variety of different styles of gameplay. There are explorations levels, racing levels, “stealth” levels, etc. Basically, simple 2D platformer stuff and minigames. While the gameplay is 2D the graphics are all 3D, nicely animated and true to the movie. The game looked and sounded nice, controlled well enough, and seemed true to the movie. Well, true to the movie’s commercials anyway. As mentioned, it’s not my kind of movie and I’ve managed to avoid it so far.
It’s well made for a movie-based game and kids who liked the movie will almost certainly enjoy the game. Parents may need to help their kids through the rhythm game segments to avoid frustration, although my test subjects seemed willing to replay the other segments endlessly when they got stuck on the rhythm game levels. If your kids are begging for it and you can stand to feed the marketing machine, or you just loved the movie so much that you have to play the game, this will make a worthwhile purchase.