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Video Game Review: Wii Version of ‘Up’ Delightful Companion to Beloved Film

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CHICAGO – Pixar movie tie-ins can be hard to review simply due to the strength of their source material. Pete Docter’s “Up” is the most critically acclaimed and brilliantly written films of the year. How can a game possibly match “Up”?

The answer is, of course, that it can’t and it shouldn’t even try. No game, especially one using the graphics engine of the Wii, is going to look as good as a Pixar film and it would be the game of the year if it had the same witty dialogue and storytelling. Most movie tie-in games fail completely when compared to the actual film but it would be downright unfair to attempt that with a Pixar title.

Up
Up
Photo credit: THQ

Once you let that expectation go and you view the video game version of “Up” as more of a companion piece than a direct tie-in to the film, the game by THQ and devloper Heavy Iron Studios works on its own terms, as a child-friendly diversion for little ones who just want to spend a little more time with Carl, Russell, Kevin, and Dug.

The game follows much of the action of the film but opens with one of the final scenes, an aerial “dog fight” as Dug tries to save Carl, Russell, and their house from attack.

After the prologue, the meat of the game kicks in. The elderly Carl and adventurous Russell must work together to navigate the treacherous terrain in the jungles of South America. The primary focus of “Up” is teamwork and the game is better enjoyed if two players take on the lead characters. If not, a single player can switch back and forth, but the drive of the game is how Carl and Russell must work together to combat enemies or even get from point A to point B.

For example, sometimes you’ll need to use Carl’s cane to lift him up to a higher point or perhaps switch to Russell to lower a rope down to the most charming elderly character of the year. Even Kevin and Dug will come into play with the puzzle-solving aspects of the game.

Up
Up
Photo credit: THQ

“Up” is also a collection game. Cleverly playing off the movie version of Russell’s wilderness explorer background, players have to collect rare bugs and merit badges that will earn them “Quest Cards”. Artifacts and mementos are also cleverly hidden throughout the levels, adding to the replay value of the title.

As for Wii-mote control, “Up” is a mixed bag. The ways in which the Wii-mote comes into play get pretty repetitive quickly, but kids will enjoy swinging the controller to mimic cutting a rope with their knife or lowering one down to save their partner.

The levels of “Up” are almost entirely puzzle-solving based. Yes, the player will occasionally have to battle a talking dog or a man-eating plant but the majority of the gameplay is about how to get Carl and Russell from point A to point B, complete with voice work by the film’s actors and even a few clever quips. Unlike a lot of movie tie-ins, I actually laughed out loud a few times at the dialogue in “Up” and didn’t grow too weary of the repetitive dialogue that often hampers a title like this one.

What’s wrong with “Up”? Even for a Wii movie tie-in aimed at kids, it is disturbingly short. Even casual players will finish it in under 3 hours, which is unacceptable for a $40 game. The dog fights are bizarrely incomplete. The player stands and waits for a dog to attack, hits B a few times, fight ends. And the camera can be shockingly frustrating in its angle choices, which is not good for a game that requires the player to often jump precisely from rock formation to rock formation.

Up
Up
Photo credit: THQ

Ultimately, perhaps I’m not as hard on “Up” as I was last year’s awful “WALL-E” tie-in or other movie tie-in games, because of increasingly lowered expectations with a title like this one. Could the game version of “Up” have been better? Certainly. There could have been more creativity with the controls and level design and it should be at least twice as long. But what “Up” does right - original actor voice work and even the score from the film stand out - makes for a pleasant diversion, a companion to the more complete experience in theaters.

The game version of a Pixar film is probably never going to be better than the theatrical experience. Yes, the developers of “Up” the game could have tried a bit harder to come closer, but judged as a diverting desert after the main meal of the actual film, a lot players will find this title a sweet treat.

‘Up’ was released by THQ and developed by Heavy Iron Studios. It is rated E (Everyone). The version reviewed was for the Nintendo Wii but the title is also available for the DS, PS3, PS2, PSP, PC and XBox 360. It was released on May 26th, 2009.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Anonymous's picture

video game rentals

Yes i really like to play the video game with the co partner then only we will get really joy and fun in the game. This blog is really wonderful and I’ll try to play it.

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