Shake your groove thing.
Emperor Kuzco is an arrogant jerk - and with all the cash money 'bling bling' that boy has, he can afford to be as rude as he wants. Sitting firmly atop his list of dislikes is the royal advisor, Yzma. Kuzco fires her for being too old. Yzma vows bloody revenge, and concocts a potion that will make Kuzco fall asleep forever (a Disney-friendly way to kill someone. "Fall asleep forever." Bah!)
Somehow, Yzma screws things up, and the sleep potion is actually a Llama potion, which promptly turns the emperor into Llama Kuzco. In an attempt to dump the evidence, Kronk, Yzma's brain-addled assistant, tosses Llama Kuzco in some peasant village. Pacha, the friendly peasant, finds Kuzco all smashed up.
And that's where the game begins. In order to return to his human self, Kuzco must get back to his kingdom and retrieve the 'human' potion from Yzma. Not sure why, though. It sounds pretty cool to just chill as a llama. No one yells at you for spitting!
The Emperor's New Groove is a linear 3D platformer. For the most part, your focus is on puzzles. As a welcome change of pace, the game does not fall into the typical platformer trap of requiring replaying areas repeatedly. Of course, you still can play levels over to try and grab every coin and secret. Coins...ugh.
You control the llama, though it isn't easy. Running around as a llama is made difficult by the loose controls. Since you'll spend some time platform jumping, precise control is a must. It's not quite up to snuff in this regard and will lead to the occasional frustrating moment.
The game follows the course of the movie (which, by the way, comes out today - 12/15). Between sets of levels, you get your standard issue movie clips, albeit with mysterious black spots as if they used a bad print of the reel. Surprisingly, the game actually makes me want to watch the movie.
The puzzles usually involve putting blocks (or in this case, vases) on switches. There are also variations on switches, timing mechanism and balloon puzzles. Yes, balloons. Certain parts involve finding/stealing balloons to create your own floating balloon platform. That sounds fated for disaster.
Usually the reward for your intellectual prowess is a Kuzco idol. These little red Kuzco idols are used to open up the mysterious Kuzco doorways. And you need to enter these doorways to get further into the game. Booyah!
By grabbing special potions, our little llama can turn into different animals. The potion locations keep with the linear nature of the game. Bunny, turtle, or frog transformation can only be used within set areas, rather than letting you change at will and run amuck.
The frog controls horribly, but his required for solving switch puzzles. The turtle is used for sliding race areas, reminiscent of that Penguin from Super Mario 64. And the bunny is for vertical jumping stages. Booyah.
To keep things from getting dull, there are some non-platformer stages. The River stages involve floating down waterfalls while tied to a log. The Catacombs take you to a twisted roller coaster where you must keep your cart on the tracks. Booyah...
Oh, I should mention that the game says "Booyah" a lot - and all sorts of other one liners. David Spade does not do the voice, but they've found someone that's sounds pretty close. The other major characters have their original voice actors: John Goodman as Pacha, Eartha Kitt as Yzma, and Patrick Warburton as Kronk. Lots of funny voice samples all over the place.
These voice samples and the humor they sneak in keep this game from slipping into mediocrity. It's dry, cynical, and sarcastic...just like me! Some parts even make fun of the movie. During a short cutscene in the River stage, Pacha says "this scene was a lot shorter in the movie!" Hehe, nice.
There are plenty of running gags, like the boy on the llama tricycle. And then there are bits of humor that seem to come out of nowhere. Case in point: Condorman and the little naked guy (you'll see).
The music is surprisingly good, featuring a ton of interesting Incan-esque (Incan-esque? Is there such a thing?) rhythms that are upbeat and fun. Much better than that looped Phil Collins crap I had to deal with in Tarzan.
Graphically, the game doesn't look that great. Lots of flat shades and some odd fill-ins make for a somewhat bland experience. There are areas here and there where the graphics do look better with some moderate light-sourcing and more interesting colors, but as a whole, the graphics are basic.
As far as Disney movie games go, this is much better than the usual "pumped-out-to-match-the-release-date" drivel you'd normally find. While I wouldn't give it to an older gamer, the fairly clever level designs compounded with the puzzles make a good fit for the younger fan. Oh, and Booyah.