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Flushed Away

Absolute toilet.

I can guess what you're thinking. You're probably thinking that Flushed Away is just a hastily constructed effort created by a development studio in sweatshop conditions over just a couple of months in a cynical bid to jump on the marketing bandwagon of a moderately successful movie, by a publisher that reckons it's safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of the people who will be shelling out on it will be parents (who will put up with any old tat if it shuts the kids up for a few hours), and the vast majority of the people who will be playing it will be young kids (who will put up with any old tat if it's got moving bright colours and it's on their telly).

You'd be precisely right, of course. It's an awful, cynically conceived, badly composed travesty, of the sort that most gamers will be all too familiar with. Obviously the first part of the publisher's plan has failed: even moderate success eluded Flushed Away at the box office. The chances are the movie will have passed you by when it was released at the start of December. So here's a summary: Flushed Away is a collaboration between Nick Park's Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame), and DreamWorks Animation. It's a CGI movie, made to look like traditional clay animation, starring the voices of the likes of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen. And it's about a pet mouse from a posh house who gets flushed down the loo and ends up finding action and romance in the sewers.

To you these screens might just look murky and boring. To anyone who's played Flushed Away they'll be triggering post-traumatic stress.

The game, by contrast, features the voice talent of the likes of Susan Duerden and Zachary Throne, and sees you take on the role of Roddy (the posh mouse) across various bog-standard (sorry) platform challenges. And it's awful. Just about everything about this game is irksome, from the too-small menu font, to the pointless dialogue in the cut-scenes and the voice acting that's straight (or should that be strite?) from the Eliza Doolittle school of cockerney. It opens with a tutorial assault course set in a giant living room, which, neatly, incorporates just about everything wrong with the game.

Since it's set in a living room, the assault course is composed of giant furniture and everyday objects. Your task is to guide Roddy from one part to another, overcoming the hideously floaty jumping and the wayward and unrevealing camera to get to the end. But it's frequently unclear which part of furniture you need to jump on next, because, of course, they all just look like bits of furniture. Aim for the wrong one and it's instant death and start again (so having a message flash up telling you to 'stick to the path' every time you jump off a piece of furniture in the wrong direction is just rubbing salt in the wounds). You'll get to bits where a giant nerf gun starts shooting at you arbitrarily, and bits where you'll be knocked over by giant marbles arbitrarily.

Here's another one. Urgh.

And you'll reach a bit where you practice your combat moves against a chess piece. And then your two assistants wander over and it's not clear what to do - and obviously with the possibility of instant death and restart to reward every wrong turn, you're reluctant to experiment. But eventually you'll work out that you have to attack your assistants in order to proceed. That's probably where most non-pre-school players will stop, but in the interests of professionalism, it was my duty to play on, which means I can, with confidence, reveal that it continues in exactly the same vein, except it requires increasing levels of patience as missions and levels become increasingly slow and ponderous, and increasingly punishing.

Indeed, surely it's especially cruel to require almost forensic precision from children who haven't even got into big school yet. But no, this game makes no concessions to its presumably kiddie audience, and it requires superhuman and saintly levels of patience to overcome the basic challenge of working out where your character is going to land. Because if they land in the wrong place it's instant death and start again.

After the indifference that greeted the movie in cinemas, Aardman and Dreamworks decided to part company. After inflicting this contemptuous travesty on the world (and all the poor little children), D3 and Monkey Bar Games ought to be considering something more dramatic. Ritual suicide, maybe. Flushed Away is absolute toilet. Sorry, again (but not as sorry as anyone involved in making the game should be).

2 / 10

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Flushed Away


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Dave McCarthy