Mini-game compilations on the Nintendo Wii are a dime a dozen. For some people, that genre alone defines the system's strength, whether Nintendo likes it or not. Licensed games also fall into the same circumstances. With the system being billed as a family console, most kids and casual gaming parents would rather go with something familiar when purchasing a game. To that end, there have been a few mini-game compilations based on very popular movies and TV series, though the quality of said titles tends to vary wildly between decent and abysmal. The Princess and the Frog, based on Disney's big holiday movie that marks a return to traditional 2-D animation, is another licensed mini-game compilation that's intended for young girls who are fans of the recent film. Will this game buck the trend and be a great title, or is it best to let this sit on the shelf and wait for a price drop?
Unlike most mini-game compilations, this title is set after the events of the movie and has a story to go along with the activities. You play as Tiana as she tries to get the old sugar mill transformed into her dream restaurant. As she does this, she reminisces with friends about her earlier adventures, which occurred in the movie and include her days working at the old restaurant, her frog transformation and being returned to human form.
You start the game at the abandoned, dilapidated sugar mill, which has makeshift tables, rotting wood and dust everywhere. Once you walk up to a major character, you'll be transported into another hub world where you can find extra items such as ingredients, songs and extra Mardi Gras beads. Talking to that same major character gets you into a series of mini-games that loosely go through the events of the location, such as running away from a frog at the ball to avoid being transformed into a frog or rescuing other frogs from traps on the hunter's boat. Once the mini-game series ends, you'll return to the restaurant with one more addition that brings you closer to the grand opening.
The Princess and the Frog features a few more activities to do outside of playing mini-games. You can choose to outfit Tiana with unlocked dresses and accessories to wear during the human mini-games and at the restaurant. You can also do a cooking mini-game, where you'll prepare different Cajun dishes to serve to the customers. Finally, there's a karaoke section where you can sing along to unlocked songs. The section is composed of words on the screen and a bouncing ball with no vocal accompaniment, so it's not a game per se, but it is a nice bonus for fans of the film's music. Finally, if you also own the DS version of the game, you can connect it to the Wii iteration to unlock some items faster, like dress parts and jewelry.
There are a few issues with the title but, surprisingly, none of them have to do with specific mini-games in the story mode. Cooking can only be done by one player, alienating the rest from participating if someone wants to make the dish in between chapters. Considering that the cooking portions of the game take about as long as a standard mini-game, it's annoying enough that you wouldn't want to do them when playing with friends. The same goes for changing Tiana's wardrobe, since no one else gets to change their clothes. Finally, if you plan on playing this with multiple people, try and make it a four-player game. Any less will get the CPU to fill in those slots and the competition rarely gets beaten, making it discouraging for those who are just learning the game.
The controls are rather simple to deal with. The Princess and the Frog is primarily controlled with the Wii Remote, though the Nunchuk can be added if you would rather use that to move through each hub world. The controls are simple to use, and there aren't any problems with button presses or the simple motion control actions, like flicking and aiming. In all of the tested mini-games, you never get the feeling that the controls are too loose or non-responsive, so controlling the game is a positive experience.
The graphics in the game do a pretty good job of matching the style of the movie. Colors are bright for backgrounds and characters, and they do a good job of re-creating the tone of the movie. The same can be said of the character models, which also animate nicely during cut scenes and mini-games. The game is presented in widescreen, and although graphics don't seem to be anti-aliased and Tiana's arms occasionally clip through some accessories, those effects don't diminish the game's overall visual quality.
With this game being based on a Disney animated musical, the sound would have to be nothing short of perfect. Luckily, the team has managed to pull it off flawlessly. Each of the character's voices is done by the original voice actor from the film, and this will please fans who are used to having games voiced by stand-ins. The voice actors seem comfortable enough with the video game medium, so the lines are delivered with the same care and manner as the feature film. The musical score resonates with classic New Orleans-style jazz at every given opportunity. Trumpets really permeate through the score and give every mini-game and setting a lighthearted feel. While the featured songs may not let you hear any of their lyrics, the jazz band renditions do an excellent job of not only fitting the atmosphere of the restaurant live band but also making you appreciate the music of the movie and game. With nothing really negative to say about the audio, you can consider it to be an audible masterpiece.
There's no way around it. If you have a child who's already in love with the movie, that child will want to have The Princess and the Frog on her Nintendo Wii. You can take comfort in knowing that the overall game isn't bad at all. A good portion of the 20+ mini-games are rather fun when played with four human players. Additionally, the overall production value, from the graphics to the sound, matches the movie perfectly. This is one of the few times when a game with a young target audience does the job. If you purchase The Princess and the Frog for the Wii, you won't suffer from buyer's remorse.
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