Disney Interactive Studios has had a pretty good track record with its movie-based games on the Nintendo Wii. Chicken Little: Ace in Action was a very good clone of Ratchet & Clank, and G-Force was a good shooter in its own right. The Princess and The Frog was a decent minigame collection that was good for its intended audience, Bolt was an enjoyable platformer, and last year's Toy Story 3 surprised plenty of people with its playful toy box mode. Disney has become a publisher with a library of usually consistent quality when it comes to licensed games. Its latest animated release, Tangled, also arrives with a game in tow, and thanks to the developers at Planet Moon Studios, the game is a very enjoyable experience for as long as it lasts.
The story follows that the movie very closely. In a faraway kingdom, a king sought a cure for his wife's life-threatening ailment. After hearing of a magical flower that could cure everything, he ordered a broth made of the flower, and his wife was immediately cured. The trade-off was that their newborn daughter had long, flowing blonde hair that possessed its own healing powers. Hearing of this discovery, an evil witch kidnapped the infant princess, locked her away in a tower, raised her as her own child and warned her of the horrors of the outside world. Years later, a bandit by the name of Flynn Rider came upon the tower and found himself knocked out by the now-teenage princess named Rapunzel. After agreeing to hide his stolen stash, she made a deal with the bandit: The stash would be returned only if he agreed to show her the kingdom where flying lanterns were released every night on her birthday.
Players take control of both Rapunzel and Flynn Rider throughout the game, each one possessing different abilities that prove useful through the adventure. Rapunzel's magical long hair makes her useful when it comes to swinging over chasms or helping Flynn climb up high ledges. Her hair also gives her the ability to make flowers bloom, so she can uncover more stamps for her sketchbook. Flynn, on the other hand, is stronger, enabling him to knock out enemies faster and cut through vegetation that Rapunzel's frying pan can't. He can also scale walls with vines on them as well as seek out and uncover buried treasure that usually contains a plethora of coins or a sword upgrade.
Just like Chicken Little: Ace In Action took its gameplay cues from the Ratchet and Clank series, this game emulates a lot of the mechanics from the various LEGO games. The game has more platforming than combat, so players who don't necessarily do well with fights can breathe easy since skirmishes don't make up a big part of the game. For the most part, you'll be engaged in completing minigames for others to progress or hunting for items like sundrops, coins, or new colors to use during sketching sessions.
There's no real option to die here, so falling off cliffs or getting hit by enemies only results in instant respawns, making it easier for younger gamers to get through the game. Though Tangled is meant for co-op play, players can easily swap between characters during a level, and another player can drop in at any time. One feature to note is that, like Super Mario Galaxy, other players can jump in to help clear out obstacles or help defeat the few enemies in the game. Even though the role seems limiting at first, it helps to get more players involved.
If there is one negative about the game, it would be its length. The main quest is rather short, and most players will be able to get through the adventure in an afternoon. That time is reduced with the addition of just one human player and reduced even more when you start counting helper players three and four. The ability to collect and unlock various objects helps lengthen the game a bit. There is plenty to find in each level, such as stamps for Rapunzel's sketchbook, and every minigame and mural can be replayed over and over again. Those features cater more to completionists, so if you're the type of gamer who only cares about the main modes in a game, you'll quickly burn through this title's offerings.
The graphics are on par with the other movie-based releases from Disney. The overall look of the game, as far as art style is concerned, is very clean, and while it certainly looks much better on a standard definition TV as opposed to a high-definition one, it still ranks highly when compared to most other Wii games. The character models resemble the movie counterparts nicely, and most of the animations are fluid save for a few odd transitions here and there. The environments are also varied and sport a good amount of color, with just the right amount of vibrancy for necessary objects. The camera doesn't become problematic, and the general frame rate holds up nicely. There are a few problems in the game, though they can be considered minor at best. Rapunzel's ridiculously long hair has a habit of clipping through objects, for example, and foreground objects sometimes fail to be transparent quickly enough when the user is inside secret areas. Other than that, fans will be pleased with what they see.
The sound mines a majority of its material from the film and becomes better for it. The movie's original cast members reprise their roles for the game and put in the same amount of effort into these lines, making the audio experience that much better when compared to other movie-licensed games in the market. Like all games, it suffers from repeated voice samples, especially when Rapunzel is in the vicinity of a swinging area or when Flynn needs to cut down some vegetation. The music also carries the same tone as the movie score, so fans should be pleased with the light fare that fits well with the game's mostly non-combative situations. The effects are also good and make use of the Dolby Pro Logic II codec rather well whenever a character is performing an action closer to the screen. As long as you can stand hearing a few voice samples multiple times, you'll be fine with the audio in Tangled.
The controls remain simple no matter what setup is being used. There are two different control configurations: Wii Remote only and Wii Remote with Nunchuk. While the Wiimote-only method works for those without much hardware, the use of the analog stick for movement in the Nunchuk/Wii Remote combination feels more comfortable. Every other action is initiated with simple button presses, while motion controls are reserved for each character's special moves and context-specific situations, such as treasure digging or uncovering sketches. The actions initiated by the buttons work well. Attacking, jumping and switching characters all activated instantly with no sense of delay. For the most part, the motion controls acted out similarly, but depending on the active character, there were a few problems. Flynn's jumping sword attack, for example, seems to trigger at the slightest movement of the Remote, and Rapunzel's hair twirl sometimes operated after a few twirls of the Wiimote. These issues didn't happen too often, so few gamers will feel that the game is going out of control.
Tangled ends up being another solid children's game from Disney. While it might not necessarily be tough, there's enough meat to the overall game in the form of challenges and hidden items to keep players engaged after the main story has ended. The solid looks and sounds are accompanied by controls that are easy to master, and the hidden multiplayer function ensures that everyone can get in on the fun at any time. Young fans of the film will enjoy this game immensely, and older fans won't mind playing it with them.
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