Brave: The Video Game
Disney Interactive Studios
PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PC, Mac
Given Pixar's kaleidoscopic range of widely popular and entertaining characters, you'd have thought by now there would have been an absolute killer video game for them all to jump around in, something that could potentially sit alongside Super Mario Bros but have that classic tongue-in-cheek, socially aware humour that made the films so universally appealing.
Unfortunately, aside from a couple of half-decent games based on Cars and the Toybox level-building element of Toy Story 3, there really hasn't been anything to shout about, most being fairly limp, paint-by-numbers cash-ins that have dramatically failed to capture that winning Pixar experience.
And so to the latest outing, the ginger-bearded kilt-fest, Brave: The Video Game, which is actually out before the film in the region (it's released tomorrow). While first glances show it doesn't stray far from the usual jumpy, platformy format of video tie-ins, it also doesn't appear to be bad looking either, with swooping camera angles that add dramatic effect as you skip through the Scottish highlands. You play the flame-haired Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald in both the film and the game), within a story that takes the movie's main characters down an altogether different plot (one involving a giant bear and a witch's spell).
The ever-expanding and chart-bothering Lego series of games is a clear source of inspiration throughout, with gold coins to collect as you hack and thwack almost anything that enters your path, be it innocent clumps of thistle or big, bad wolves, and targets to twang arrows at (if you've seen the film trailer, you'll know she's a crack shot with the bow and arrow). There's also a Lego-like puzzle element too, with things to push in the right order and special routines needed for doors and the like to open.
It's nothing remarkable, and after a while starts to get ever-so-slightly repetitive. But additions such as the power-ups available to buy with amassed coins are enough to hold interest for a while and the vivid greenery of the setting, while obviously far from Pixar's 3D excellence in film graphics, makes for a captivating backdrop. Illustrated, comic-book interludes between the levels are a nice aesthetic touch, too.
But what is really missing is that Pixar spark that had toddlers and 40-somethings alike giggling at Mr Potato Head's marital strife with Mrs Potato Head, the bouncy, innocent optimism of Mike Wazowski in Monsters Inc or Mr Incredible's everyday middle-aged concerns regarding waistline and whatnot. Sure, there are odd quips and jokes that pop up in the game, but it would have hugely benefited from a bit of the film's fighty Billy Connolly to move away from the family-friendly vibe that runs throughout.
And it's this that has been keeping the potentially awesome Pixar games down, an issue that is no doubt due to the studio's insistence of farming them out to third parties rather than keeping them within their own impressive house.
Brave: The Video Game is by no means a bad game. It is good-looking, playable and, for the younger market it's aimed at, should easily do the job of keeping the kids quiet for a while. But just think how good a truly Pixar outing could be.
Brave: The Video Game Disney Interactive Studios PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PC, Mac.
Lego City: Undercover
Wii U, 3DS
Out in December
Another Lego game might not be anything particularly eyebrow raising (what’s next, Lego Mad Men? Actually…), but this is in fact a totally new direction for the world’s favourite connecting blocks because a) it has nothing to do with a film, and b) it gives you a full sandbox-style Lego city to explore, solving crimes as a cool-as-a-cucumber cop. The trailer is online and looks rather brilliant, placing the game somewhere between Grand Theft Auto and, perhaps, LA Noire. It’s far more family friendly, of course, but is still packed full of the usual Lego cheekiness (notice the Mario reference at the end). It seems to utilise the new handset on the Wii U, too, which we’ll obviously all have by the time the game comes out in December.
News: Phantom of the living room
Just when you thought every possible celebrity had thrown their name on to a video game, along comes a rather unexpected addition. Andrew Lloyd Webber, the rather shiny-faced man responsible for much of the cacoph..., erm, musical delights from London’s West End, and more recently a few “talent” shows, is heading to the Wii for Andrew Lloyd Webber Musicals: Sing & Dance. Featuring 32 songs from 13 of his musicals, including Phantom of the Opera, Evita and Cats, the game has a “sing”, “dance” and “career” mode, giving players the chance to “live out their dream of being in a musical”. Guessing there’s no Springtime for Hitler from The Producers in there then.
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