Developer: Shaba Games
Release Date: October 25, 2005
It's been just shy of two years since Shrek 2 came out in theaters and Shrek 3 isn't slated to come out until 2007. Therefore, this isn't exactly the prime time to cash in on the Shrek license, but that didn't stop Activision from giving us Shrek Superslam. If Super Smash Bros. and Power Stone had a love child that they left on DreamWorks' doorstep, chances are that it would look like Superslam.
If you've ever sat around, wondering "Golly, who would win in a fight between Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man?" then wonder no more, avid reader! Fights take place in multi-tiered arenas with up to four combatants in them, either on teams or free-for-all. There are 20 characters total in the game (with 10 unlocked from the start): Shrek, Fiona (in both ogre and non-ogre flavors), Puss In Boots, Donkey, Prince Charming, and many more are available for your combat pleasure.
Not unlike Super Smash Bros., every character has the same types of moves at their disposal: jump, double jump, block, light attack, strong attack, and a wall attack. Every character has access to a combo tree that has four branches. For example, one combo knocks your opponent over and another is unblockable. But, in the end, what's to be gained from smacking around Captain Hook and Humpty Dumpty in such a way? Building up your slam meter, of course. Every normal attack you land adds to your character's slam meter, which turns fiery red when full, along with your character. A single press of the strong attack button unleashes the slam attack, which is unique to each character (Donkey charges, Pinocchio pokes people with his nose, and Shrek, of course, farts). Slamming your opponents not only destroys parts of the level, but also nets you points while subtracting points from your opponents. At the end of the round, whoever has the most points wins.
The brawls themselves take place in many varied locales, some familiar from the movie and some not. There's a kung fu dojo high atop a mountain, the castle surrounded by a fiery moat that Princess Fiona was trapped in, Quasimodo's bell tower, and the like. Strewn about these levels are the occasional power-up and weapon, such as a potion that automatically maxes out your slam meter and, my personal favorite, a blunderbuss. For some reason, you can equip and unequip weapons, but this doesn't seem to serve too much of a purpose.
Shrek Superslam has a single-player story mode that consists of eight separate chapters. Each of these chapters begins with a cut scene that tries to provide a valid reason why someone like the Gingerbread Man would have a beef with Puss In Boots (the reason in this case being that Puss In Boots ate one of the Gingerbread Man's no-doubt delicious brethren). The story mode does a nice job of using humor similar to that of the films, but is extremely brief and can be completed in about 20 minutes.
Now, if you want something a little more meaty and substantial, then you might want to upgrade to the mega-challenge mode (the "mega" lets you know that it's better!). There are challenges that number in the hundreds in this mode, which you navigate like a board game. Spaces come in two flavors: challenges and tournaments. Tournaments are just like normal melees, sometimes with the exception of a three-way free-for-all, a two-on-two match, or every hit counting as a smash. The challenges, though, can sometimes be quite different. One challenge tasks you with throwing six Gingerbread Men into a fire before time runs out while another has you trying to keep Humpty Dumpty from getting slammed, because history has shown that not even all of the kings horses or men can help him with his recovery. These challenges don't take very long by themselves, but they come grouped in clusters of five and they also get progressively harder (sometimes being a little too hard for Superslam's target demographic).
For a game that seems to aim to capture the party game feel of Super Smash Bros., Shrek Superslam skimps on the multiplayer options. There's the basic melee mode, which decides the winner after two minutes and a king of the hill mode that rewards you with points for how long you can stay at the highest point of a level. That's it. Seriously. Two modes. If you're entertaining guests, Shrek Superslam won't keep them happy for a very long period of time.
Graphically, the game captures the look of the movies very well. Obviously, the character models and environments aren't as animated as well as they were in the movies, but considering the hardware limitations, it still looks great. Each of the characters animates just as you would think that they would: Puss In Boots is one of the zippier characters while Shrek moves just like a large, lumbering ogre should. All of the arenas are bright and help in conveying the cheeriness of the movies.
The sound design does its job well, also. The music in the game is a kind of upbeat ska reminiscent of Smash Mouth. It's nothing that will get you whistling along, but it's still pleasant to listen to. The original cast doesn't reprise their roles for Superslam, but the actors that take their place do a decent job.
As I stated above, story mode won't take you any time at all to complete, but mega-challenge mode will take quite a few hours of your life from you. It's this mode where you can unlock the 10 hidden characters as well as more arenas.
All things considered, I was surprised by Shrek Superslam. I went in expecting the type of licensed schlock that publishers crank out for a quick buck, and what I got instead was a perfectly adequate multiplayer fighter. Shrek Superslam won't replace Super Smash Bros. or Power Stone in your library, but it's worth a rental if you liked the movies, especially if you have young children to play it with.
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