Grand Theft Otter.
Ever since the success of Toy Story, the formula for computer animated flicks hasn’t changed a bit. Come up with a kid-friendly concept and characters, hire some Hollywood celebrities to do the voices, get some computer animators, and…Voilà! Every parent in the world is forced to haul their kids to the theater and see your movie.
And I’m not messing around, these movies are money making machines
. Just take a look at this list of the top 100 grossing films of all time
. Nearly every computer-generated flick is on there: Shrek, Shrek 2, Toy Story, Toy Story 2
, Ice Age, Ice Age 2
, A Bug’s Life
, The Incredibles
, Finding Nemo
, Monsters Inc
… even Shark Tale
floats belly-up onto that list. Are you kidding me? Shark Tale
[image1]Now before the hate mail starts, I am fully aware that a number you who are legal adults without children recently smoked a bunch of weed with your friends, went to see Over the Hedge and had plenty of fun. However, you guys are high.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure that it is possible to take enough bong hits to make the soulless monotony of the Over the Hedge game entertaining (Please note: This is not to be taken as a challenge). It is yet another generic cookie-cutter game made from a movie license.
Despite plenty of interspersed clips from the movie, it somehow doesn’t even manage to follow the movie very well. If you haven’t seen the film, the random hodge-podge of scenes will leave you with little clue as to what exactly is happening. There’s no character exposition and no discernable story arc; even the thirty-second trailer will leave you with a better understanding of the movie than this game will.
Here’s what I do know. You play as a bunch of furry woodland creatures, most notably RJ the raccoon, Hammy the squirrel, Stella the skunk, and Verne the turtle. Okay, so a turtle isn’t furry, but he might as well be. You raid the nearby suburbs, vandalizing anything you can find, breaking into homes
and burglarizing them. Basically, you’re just a bunch of nasty, thieving animals
[image2]Eventually your forest glade becomes a virtual illegal pawn shop of stolen goods. Halfway through this linear game, you will have pilfered a projection TV, a DVD player, a laptop computer, and even a popcorn machine. In one mission, you bust into some kid’s birthday party and smash all his presents. Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t tell you. If this game had starred a black man
instead of a squirrel, it would be rated M.
Powering your criminal endeavors is that old standby of the movie conversion: the third-person platformer. You can play any level as any two of the four main forest critters. If you have a friend, he can control the other one, otherwise you get a computer-controlled buddy and you can switch between the two at will. However, all four of them are pretty much identical with a stick/golf club/bat that you can hit things with as well as a ranged attack.
And you do a lot of hitting things. Aside from smashing up people’s homes for fun, you also beat down a nearly endless stream of your little animal buddies who wear sparkling, silver (presumably mind control) helmets. Second only to hitting animals, you spend the rest of your time jumping over laser beam alarm triggers.
It’s all very easy, thanks to the constant supply of health regenerators (nacho chips) that erupt from your enemies as you hit them. There are a few different combat moves and a power attack, but just mashing X will get you where you want to go. This is probably a good thing for the young kids who are clearly the target of Over the Hedge
, and it’s even easier than other kid’s games, like The Incredibles
, for example.
[image3]The graphics are clear, crisp and cartoony, just like the movie. Oddly, the game uses the relatively fancy Havok engine for physics, which means when you trash some poor guy’s patio furniture, it all clatters around satisfyingly.
The clatter of the animals doesn’t quite match, as the voices are clearly those of celebrity impersonators and, true to the genre, they repeat the same quips endlessly. “Enemies, you have been raccooned!” What does that even mean?
This formulaic title just has very little to offer. It’s certainly a pale copy of whatever the movie has going for it, minus the star power, plot, humor and soul. And unfortunately they’re going to keep making these things because enough people will buy it just because of the license. Parents, don’t get me wrong – with 35 levels and three unlockable mini-games, this game will indeed get your children out of your hair for several hours more than the movie. And with the co-op mode, it can even distract two of them at the same time. But hey, your kids deserve better than animal criminals. How about getting them an evil puppy