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For: DS   Also on: Mobile, PSP

(Don't) Do the Robot

Product: WALL-E | Developer: Helixe | Publisher: THQ | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Adventure, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
WALL-E DS, thumbnail 1
So morality is now back in fashion, it seems. Bill Gates is throwing cash around like being rich is going out of style, Gordon Brown wants us to drive trees to work, and now Disney is trying to remind us how polluted the world could become. But all this good work went to waste when it started leaving rubbish like WALL-E all over game shops.

The titular WALL-E is a robot with a mammoth task before him. Humankind left the Earth 700 years ago, leaving WALL-E and other robots to clear up the planet. Now WALL-E, the only one left, has spent the time cleaning up and developing something of a personality for himself. His adventure begins when, for the first time in centuries, another robot turns up on the planet surface.

That's all well and good for a film, but how do you turn a game about rubbish collection on an empty planet into an exciting idea for a game? Puzzles, apparently.

Yes, WALL-E can't shoot, he can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he sure can compact trash into cubes, and so this key skill is how you'll be completing most of the game's challenges. The puzzle mode breaks down into some fairly simple parts – some cubes pull things towards them, others push things away, some even shut down robots. You can throw them onto switches, conveyor belts, air vents and the like, all in the name of puzzle solving.

Nothing shockingly new, then, but at least WALL-E doesn't go out of his way to irritate you. The puzzles never leave you stuck somewhere without escape, and the save points are quite regular. Some of the skills take some learning, such as throwing cubes around, but the introduction is gentle enough to ease you in.

The other part of the game is the few levels in which you take control of EVE, WALL-E's new companion. EVE's levels are race-like challenges, an odd contrast to the puzzle-solving, and are fairly simple exercises in avoiding huge rocks at high speed, outstaying their welcome by exactly three swear words on most playthroughs.

WALL-E is an extremely empty game, however. There's no music during missions, and few sound effects. Each level is a series of very small, cramped arenas with exceptionally bland graphics. Obviously, this is a game about abandoned planets full of scrap metal, and cold, empty spaceships, but no game needs to feel as desolate and dull as this – particularly one trying to entertain younger gamers.

And although the puzzles themselves won't irritate, the game does have some control issues. The camera rotates well enough, allowing you to aim up those long cube shots a bit easier, but if there's one thing WALL-E loves, it's falling to his doom. I don't know what it is about huge gaping chasms, but if the little metal dude gets within a mile of the edge of one, he'll wobble slightly and the screen will fade to black. This is irritating enough when you're actually able to see the pits that he's leaping into, but there are plenty of times when they're obscured by scenery, or just drawn badly.

It doesn't derail WALL-E, but that's because there's very little to derail. The cut-scenes in between levels feature no content from the movie, and although you can unlock screenshots from the film by collecting coins, it doesn't really feel like a game licensed from one of the biggest kids movies of the year. Everything feels a bit wanting, from the puzzle design right down to the extras. The touchscreen is left to languish with an all but useless map and a list of the controls to glance at, and the multiplayer is a lazy version of the EVE racing mini-games.

WALL-E's not offensive, it's not gory or violent, and it's not frustrating for the most part. But at the same time, there's so little here to actually enjoy, particularly for those young enough to be interested in experiencing it. If you've got to play with Disney's new toy on your DS, then you've no choice, but if all you want is some creative puzzling it eases our conscience to be able to recommend far better.
Reviewer photo
Mike Cook | 15 July 2008
WALL-E doesn't annoy or offend, but looks terrible and doesn't entertain either, and that leaves it only fit for landfill
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