Version tested: Xbox 360
I've just been speaking to my doctor and he advised me not to jump straight to the major criticism in this review or I might do myself an injury. So instead we're going to warm up a little before we get there. We're going to limber up and get those critical reaction muscles working. We'll start by easing ourselves in with some gentle niggles. I'll just wait for you to throw on some loose, comfortable clothing and we can begin.
Here we go, then. We'll start off with a nice, simple complaint: floating items with no shadows on the ground - an obvious flaw. Without some kind of reference, it's difficult to judge where that coin suspended in the air is supposed to be in relation to your character, causing you to jump completely the wrong way. Since it should be a mandatory requirement of any 3D platformer, it makes its omission here slightly annoying, so I want you to screw your face up into a look of mild irritation... and then realise it doesn't matter that much, and let it go. There we go.
Now, onto the presentation. None of the principal characters lend their voices to the game, apart from the irascibly charming John Cleese as the narrator, so let's roll those eyes up... and let me tell you that the replacements are pretty good stand-ins who do a decent impersonation... and let's roll them down again. And I'm going to tell you that the narrative compared to the movie is a little bland... and up... but that the main story is complemented by some well-made, albeit ultimately staid CGI puppet theatre cut-scenes... and down.
Moving onto the outer parts of the presentation, and we're going to work our graphics opinion now. Here we have some competent cartoonish visuals that fail to capture the technical polish of the movie, though do manage to partially retain the essence of it. They do, however, appear to have given Shrek a rather gormless expression. In light of that, put your arms to your sides, lift your forearms, and turn your palms upwards. Now shrug those shoulders, shrug those shoulders.
And finally, inhale as I mention mid-level unskippable cutscenes... and sigh... and relax.
Feel The Burn
That's great. We're getting somewhere now. Let's get a little more in-depth and move onto the film licence aspect. As I do that, I want you to read every second sentence, while tipping your head back slightly and making a tutting noise. Shrek was the movie that proved that success in the CGI animation field needn't be the sole domain of Pixar. It brought an entertaining touch of ugly subversion to a fairytale universe - something that adults could enjoy as much as children. In contrast, its various gaming spin-offs so far have been aimed entirely at the young and the foolish, greedily cashing-in with weak karting, party games and beat ‘em ups much to our chagrin. The game of Shrek the Third (or SHReK the THiRD as it insists on calling itself), continues that tradition, with a standard platformer-slash-action adventure containing very little in the way of the comedy, wry pop-culture nods or grown-up themes that prop up the film. In fact, the only time it ever really gets close to matching its style of humour is in a musical boss fight with Captain Hook, and that sounds a lot better here than it actually plays.
Keep with that rhythm now. Let's really feel it. We've got characters here. All the leads including Puss in Boots, Fiona, Arthur and Sleeping Beauty are playable. Each is given their own level or section of level (character switching is done automatically) with little differentiation between their moves. Puss can double-jump and Beauty can float, but those extremely rare occasions when those abilities are needed are nothing in comparison to the identikit fighting throughout. Tut.
OK, now clench your hands into fists and let's really work that criticism. I'm going to talk about how it plays. It's an exercise in linear routes, in smashing crates, and collecting coins, of mindless button mashing combat and simple jumps. The game's storyline follows a bare bones premise of the movie and produces levels with the minimum of innovation. You could swap the graphics for any other uninspired big budget animation license produced in the past five years and be none the wiser. It's as authentic and shallow a companion piece to the movie as eating ham sandwiches from a lunchbox with Donkey's face on it. Keep those fists clenched and let's shake them angrily at the sky. Come on! Let me see that fury!
No Pain, No Gain
Fantastic. We got to the heart of the matter. Now, let's cool down by talking about the difficulty. We're going to take it nice and easy here - no need to break a sweat, so just breathe easily in and out. In a nod to poor design, you can get through the game by generally making a beeline towards the exit, only stopping for the occasional, necessary punch-up or switch puzzle. You're looking at five or six hours, even with the caveat that it's aimed at kids, but there's a bit more to do if you want to collect everything. The 360 version ties this in with its Achievements, which are mainly doled out for picking up the treasures found inside the hundreds of objects you need to smash (mostly crates) which the game calls, in what I presume is an attempt at self-effacing wit, ‘thingies' (at this point I feel I should mention the under-looked PC RPG Anachronox and its Totally Arbitrary Collectible Objects for cross-referencing). Other than that, a smattering of mini-games you won't play more than once or twice round proceedings off.
Time to wind down completely. We're going work our resigned looks now. As ever, Shrek the Third is yet another middle of the road film license that survives by dint of being as average as they come. It'll make its requisite sales from the easily-pleased, trouble the charts for a bit, and then vanish forgetfully into the ether. We deserve better, so hang your head dejectedly and shake it slowly from side to side a couple of times. And that's it, we're done. Phew, who knew reviewing could be so exhausting?
5 / 10