Madagascar, noun: 1) An island off the east coast of Africa. 2) An animated movie starring Chris Rock as a zebra who escapes from New York zoo, only to wind up stranded on said African island. 3) A formulaic, badly made cash-in videogame. Right?
Wrong. Because as much as it might injure our hard-as-nails image to say (you'd tell us if we didn't, wouldn't you? It's something we worry
about a lot), playing Madagascar made us smile. Not in a, wow-that's-an-incredible-technicalachievement, this-truly-is-the-next-leap-forward-forthe-platforming-genre kind of way, admittedly. More in a this-feels-good-ha-ha-ha-that-cut-scenemade-us-laugh-and-reminded-us-of-the-movie kind of way. And isn't that just as important?
Madagascar's real strength (beyond retaining much of the original movie's charm, plus a remarkably talented, if clearly soundalike voice
cast) lies in its variety. True, there won't be much here you haven't found in some form or another elsewhere, but Madagascar still pulls out all the stops to make sure that every one of its 11 missions play completely differently to the last. If nothing else, it makes a refreshing change to the big studios' generally held belief that all animatedmovie-to-game adaptations should simply churn out the same old platform-hopping drill again and again and again.
In fact, Madagascar is a veritable feast of variety. One minute you're dodging traffic on New York's 42nd street (in a style not that dissimilar to creaky arcade favourite Frogger), the next you're sniping sailors with tranquilliser darts. The one after that you're rescuing Lemurs caught in a hurricane in the middle of the jungle. For the eagerbeaver six year old, Madagascar can feel more like ten games rolled into one.
But as much as it might keep the kids amused, the game never really manages to make the jump from being mere kiddie-entertaining fluff to proper generation-spanning masterpiece. Apart from being - perhaps understandably - INCREDIBLY EASY, it's just too brief. Even taking the amazingly replayable mini-games into account (note to game developers: never, ever underestimate the benefit of sticking mini-golf into your titles), Madagascar is unlikely to last you much more than a few hours at best.
Still, we're balding middle-aged men who have mortgages and work in an office, so what do we know? We don't even believe in Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy any more. The fact is, Madagascar is surprisingly enjoyable stuff while it lasts, and just as amusing as the film. Short and easy, but only because it's primarily aimed at the kind of people who still having trouble fastening their shoes (and we're talking about the Velcro ones here). Put it this way, we enjoyed this far more than Activision's other movie-to-game effort this month (Fantastic 4), and that's something we never expected to say.
A bit short, a bit easy; it's very much a kids game, but there's still been a lot of effort put into making things fun.