Developer: 7 Studios
Release Date: May 14, 2007
Sometimes, I can't help but go into a game with certain expectations. If I'm getting ready to play a Final Fantasy game, I expect a long, deep story starring a whiny teenage protagonist. If I'm playing an FPS, I expect plenty of gun battles and linear levels. And if I'm playing a movie-based game, I expect a product that feels rushed and half-finished by a company trying to cash in on box office receipts. Unfortunately, Shrek the Third fulfills all of my expectations for movie tie-ins.
The game begins with the death of the King of the country of Far, Far Away. With his final breath, the king names Shrek the heir to the throne, much to the annoyance of the ogre, who just wants to be left alone. After pressing for more information, Shrek learns that the king has a son, who would be the heir to the throne, if he weren't away at boarding school. Shrek leaves on a quest to find Arthur and bring him back to Far, Far Away, but all is not well, for Prince Charming has hatched an evil plan to steal the throne while Shrek is away.
I want to talk about the story for a little bit, because it's really the only thing that keeps this game afloat. Anyone who has seen the "Shrek" movies knows that they're funny, quick-witted stories that turn classic fairy tales on their heads. In this regard, Shrek the Third does not disappoint because it's a funny, funny game. From the puppet show narration in between levels to the cut scenes, the game just leaves you chuckling at every turn; fans of the movie will probably enjoy it enough to make the game worth a playthrough.
The graphics in Shrek the Third seem dated, but that's to be expected for a multi-platform game. There are a few jagged edges here and there, and the character models seem stiff. The backgrounds are colorful and vibrant, but they still appear to be the textures that are expected in a previous generation game. While I'm sure this looks great for the PS2, it leaves something to be desired on the 360.
Unfortunately for everyone else, the glaring problems that reside elsewhere in the game are more than enough to turn off even the most stalwart of gamers. The first problem you'll notice is the voices. Normally, the one thing I really enjoy about movie tie-ins is the phenomenal voice acting, usually provided the actors themselves. However, Shrek the Third chose a different route by hiring impersonators who border on grating. The voice acting isn't bad, and most of the actors deliver their lines well, but they don't quite have the sound-alike factor down; they're off by just a little bit, but it's enough to remind you that they're not the original actors. The only shining spot here is Monty Python alumnus John Cleese, who does not reprise his role of King Harold, but does provide the narration in between levels with ease and perfect comedic timing.
The rest of the audio is your standard video game fare. The sound effects sound like they came from a CD of stock fighting game clips, the music is mediocre, and the soundtrack isn't going to fly off the shelves. Truth be told, unless you're listening for it, you won't even notice the sound as you play through the game.
Now, I'm sure you're saying to yourself, "Graphics and sound are all fine and dandy, but they're superficial, so tell me about gameplay." Okay, I will. The gameplay is repetitive, boring and frustrating. You play through the 20 or so levels switching between the characters of Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, Puss 'n' Boots, Sleeping Beauty and Arthur as the game dictates. In all honesty, it doesn't really matter whom you're playing as, because the game plays like your standard brawler. You move through the level, encounter a few enemies, and mash the X button.
The combat is boring, which is a letdown, because you will spend 99.5% of the game fighting enemies. You have a standard attack, a strong attack and a special attack, which varies with each character. You can also perform finishing moves on certain enemies after beating on them for a while. Despite what may seem like varied combat on paper, the reality is that the standard attack does more than enough to incapacitate your enemies. The bosses might require your strong attack to wear them down a bit, but the majority of the enemies can be dealt with by mashing the standard attack button.
As you play through the levels, you collect money, which you can use in the "Gift Shop" on the main menu to buy plenty of cool things, like new costumes that enhance your attributes, new multiplayer levels or commentary from the directors for the single-player levels. You can even unlock two new difficulties to change the way you play the game.
The game also increases its lifespan through goals. Each level provides you with about five goals that range from completing the level without dying to finding special guests that are hiding somewhere in the level. It's not much, but there's bound to be a few you'll miss in your first playthrough. If you like beating a game completely, you'll want to go through the levels numerous times to get everything.
Occasionally, the game breaks up the brawling monotony with some brief platform jumping, which is where the game really starts to get maddening. For starters, the camera is fixed, so you can't adjust it, making some of the platforms difficult to see, and don't even get me started on what this does to your perspective. Without the ability to zoom in or reposition the camera a little bit to gain a sense of distance, you're left to jump blindly and hope that that you have enough height and distance to make it to your destination.
The other way the game shakes things up is with the "Castle Capture" levels, which have you take control of one or two medieval siege weapons. You aim at a tower, set the power of your weapon and let it fly. If your aim is true, the tower comes down and you move on to the next target. If it's not, you readjust your aim and try it again. Knock down all the walls and towers within the time limit, and you win. It's an incredibly simple game, but it's just a blast to play.
Shrek the Third boasts a single-player campaign that takes about four hours to beat. Fortunately, there are a few unlockables and numerous goals to provide quite a bit of replay value. The title boasts six bonus mini-games, some of which you can play with two people. They range from the "Castle Attack" mentioned above to a Frogger-style challenge, in which you move your characters from one end of a catacomb to another, dodging all sorts of obstacles and moving platforms. All of the mini-games are pretty fun, and most of them provide a more rewarding experience than the campaign. Regardless, it's nice to see a little bit of effort on the part of the developer to create some enjoyable little things to do after you've beaten the main campaign.
Overall, Shrek the Third isn't a terrible game, but it's not a terribly fun — or long — one, either. It suffers from boring, repetitive combat with extremely frustrating platform jumping, and while the story and dialogue are hilarious, the voice actors providing poor impersonations tend to detract more than enhance from the entire experience. The only saving grace here is in the unlockables, goals, and mini-games.