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DS  header logo

Shrek the Third

For: DS   Also on: GameBoy, Mobile, PSP

Overly ogreish

Product: Shrek The Third | Developer: Vicarious Visions | Publisher: Activision Blizzard | Format: DS | Genre: Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-3 | Version: Europe
 
Shrek The Third DS, thumbnail 1
If you've ever been sent on an outward bound course with middle management then you'll know what to expect from Shrek the Third. In principle the philosophy behind the experience is noble: you work together as a team, complete tasks and revel in new challenges. In practice, it's usually despairingly irritating.

What's surprising in Shrek the Third's case is that a game targeted for a younger audience would end up more like a puzzle game than a light platform adventure. We certainly don't have anything against puzzle games, mind, but the challenges contained here feel dull and repetitive. And just imagine the block pushing and lever pulling from Tomb Raider but with the addition of contending with three characters.

Still, it's all wrapped in the rough theme of the new Shrek film, with your goal to save the fair land of Far Far Away using those now familiar screen heroes Shrek, Puss in Boots and Artie. (Donkey plays a peripheral role as spell caster, advice dispenser and cutscene voice-over artist.)

Their individual abilities are at the heart of the experience: Shrek batters down barriers or through floors, Puss can leap to high ledges or duck underneath low walls, while Artie can throw his shield at targets to open doors or sit on it to cross water. Movement is controlled either using the D-pad or face buttons.

You're now probably considering the wonderful puzzle combinations these abilities make possible. In truth, there's not many. Typically, you bash through a wall with Shrek, switch to Puss who leaps over a few platforms and opens a door for Artie who then crosses some water with his shield. And repeat.

The addition of collectibles, in the form of coins and golden fairies, while generally not crucial to the quest, encourages exploration of every nook and cranny of the castles and forests you travel through. But once you've triggered all the doors and levers, broken all the floors and walls and leapt over every precipice, you're not going to want to slog through it all again to unlock a piece of artwork depicting a gingerbread man, believe us.

Controlling three characters leads to a lot of backtracking and nannying, too. While you can link the three characters so they transverse sections together, for the most part you'll have to constantly collect and herd your guys through to the end of level portal. This is about as entertaining as leaving your house without your wallet, three times in the same day.

The other problem is that these three-way errand-inspired conundrums aside, there's very little else to the game. Enemies in the form of witches on broomsticks and knights with swords occasionally cross your path but the combat consists of nothing more than swiping your stylus from left to right on the touchscreen.

Other controls include the ability to raise rocks off the ground to use as impromptu lifts by tapping up with your stylus, while blowing into the microphone animates magic carpets, again for use as lifting devices. Magic can be cast at certain points by pressing the left shoulder button, but again it's quite limited stuff, most of it merely allowing you to reach higher areas.

On a more positive note, the presentation is good, with the cutscenes told in a fairybook-style that has you holding your DS upright. Graphically, the 3D environments and characters aligned with 2D gameplay also makes the most of the DS's resources, although the generally high-quality audio does become repetitive.

The handful of boss battles are the best part of the game, as they take advantage of your characters' skills a little better, with a giant puppet encounter among the best – stretching over both DS screens, while Puss cuts away at the strings above Shrek can lay into the body parts below.

There's also quite a lot of multiplayer fodder worked into the title. If you're lucky enough to have two DS-owning friends who both have copies of the game, you can play through it using the three-way co-op mode. Alternatively, there are six multiplayer mini-games which you can share with up to three other players from one game cartridge.

Admittedly, if that's you, then you and your friends are probably eight-years old and you'll likely enjoy the single-player game more than we did, too; for most though, the entertaining bosses and the multiplayer bolt-ons won't make up for the flatness elsewhere.

Fun is what Shrek the Third most notably lacks. Why Activision thought an onerous puzzle-based game would best suit the comedy and exuberance of the movie is anyone's guess.

Of course, any game containing the likenesses of the Scottish-talking green ogre and pals is likely to attract an audience. It's not a broken game by any means, just rather boring, unless you find the prospect of repeating Shrek-branded tasks enticing. For the rest of us, this is more likely to be the emotional equivalent of building a raft in the pouring rain with David Brent.
 
Shrek the Third
Reviewer photo
Mark Walbank | 3 July 2007
A pretty but repetitive puzzle-based adventure, Shrek the Third feels more like completing a series of chores than having monster-sized fun
 
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