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Shrek: Ogres and Dronkeys

For: DS


Product: Shrek: Ogres and Dronkeys | Developer: WayForward | Publisher: Activision Blizzard | Format: DS | Genre: Adventure, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-4 | Version: Europe
Shrek: Ogres and Dronkeys DS, thumbnail 1
Once upon a time, there was a CGI fantasy movie called Shrek. At first, it seemed to fit in with the other CGI fantasy films that gambolled in the playpen of cliche. When it spoke however, it distinguished itself as a firebrand. Instead of behaving, it poked fun at the genre to which it pretended, like a Trojan horse, to belong. It was a subversive swan in a pond of drab ducks, if you will.

But that was long, long ago. Once an anti-establishment icon, Shrek now is the establishment, and nothing epitomises the domestication of the franchise better than Ogres and Dronkeys.

The game's story begins where the third film ends, with both Shrek and Donkey happily married and a litter of baby trolls and hybrid donkey/dragons pitter-pattering around their respective abodes. Shrek and Fiona, who are babysitting Donkey's five children, as well as their own three, are called away on a royal tour of the kingdom, leaving you to look after the eight infants.

After a brief discussion with Fiona about the difficulty of finding childcare, Shrek turns to the screen and says in his not-quite-authentic voice, "Hey, you. How would you like to help?" This gauche attempt at pantomime inclusion is a bizarre narrative ploy, and, along with a cheerfully idiotic musical loop, it firmly identifies Ogres and Dronkeys as a game for kids.

So, taking responsibility for two babies at a time, Nintendogs-style, your goal is not only to keep them clean, well-fed, and happy, but to ensure that they do all of the playing and exploring available to them in the four sequentially unlocking playrooms and their associated gardens.

The soul of the game is its open-ended and comprehensive training mechanic. Using the Y, X, B and A buttons, you can scroll through a list of preset tasks, and to complete the game fully you need to make sure that every one of these tasks is completed.

At the simpler end of the spectrum, the game might ask you to see that the babies 'Pickup A Block', in which case all you need to do is tap the toy chest with the stylus and select the A Block to bring it into the room. The two babies blunder merrily around, playing with objects in any way they can, and they'll generally get around to performing the simpler actions through their own meandering volition.

At the more urbane end of the difficulty spectrum you have to persuade them to do complicated things like 'Climb into Large Bucket'. Since this isn't an obvious thing to do, you need to demonstrate the process by dragging and dropping a doll in first.

Every time you get a baby to do one of the specified tasks, you get credits that you can then spend on more toys, which in turn entail more tasks. While you're setting about getting these numerous tasks done, you also need to attend to the babies' thought-bubbled needs by using the stylus to scrub them in a bathtub, bring bottles to their mouths, change their nappies, and even rummage in their ear holes with cotton buds.

While it's impossible to actually kill the babies, leaving them unattended does leave a visible impression. In the time it's taken to write what you've read so far, for example, Coco and Peanut have gone from being quiet and playful to mewing and glaring into the screen, wistfully imagining milk bottles while stink lines drift around them like seaweed. When we quit though, Shrek will be none the wiser as he looks us in the eye and thanks us for our help.

The babies put the skills that you teach them in the playrooms to use in the gardens. In each of the four outdoors areas, you need to collect objects by leading whichever baby you've brought out around with the stylus. Some of these objects are initially inaccessible, but once a baby has learned how to climb on a block in the playroom he'll be equally comfortable climbing on a tree stump or a vaulting jack-in-a-box in the yard, allowing you to mop up as the children's education expands.

Also in the yard are mini-games, but these add little. Candy Gobble, for instance, is simply an exercise in leading your sluggish baby around with the stylus, while Target Practice sees you immolating a series of slowly passing hay bales. All of them are so easy as to be token, and not particularly fun.

There's plenty to do then, but little variety in the gameplay and nothing that really stands out. Once you've settled into the rhythm of buying toys and teaching your charges, checklist-style, to finish the list of tasks the game ambles along at an amiable trot. And while you've every right to ask for more - wireless multiplayer, more compelling mini-games, more interesting goals - you're probably too old to have an opinion. This one's for the kids, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Shrek: Ogres and Dronkeys
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 7 January 2008
While it doesn't quite measure up to the best of the virtual pet breed, Shrek: Ogres and Dronkeys is an almost satisfying game that younger Shrek fans will enjoy
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