As a movie, "Alpha and Omega" was seen as forgettable fare. Not too many ads were shown for the film, and despite several theaters showing it in 3-D, the box office take wasn't very substantial during its few weeks in theaters. Critics panned it, and audience reaction wasn't exactly positive. Many people are only hearing about the movie now that it's on DVD, so although "Alpha and Omega" was ultimately profitable, it wasn't exactly what the movie studios had in mind. With all of this baggage, the game tie-in, which was only released on the Nintendo DS, could be another example of poor licensed fare from a small publisher and developer. While Alpha and Omega isn't exactly a beefy entry in terms of content, it is done well enough to surprise the pundits.
Even though Alpha and Omega is a minigame compilation, the game follows the story from the movie. Meet Kate and Humphrey, two wolves from the same pack that are very different from each other. Kate, an alpha wolf, is a born leader and hunter of the pack while Humphrey, an omega wolf, has more of a carefree, fun-loving attitude. After both wolves are tranquilized and sent to a reserve for breeding purposes, it's up to them to get back home and prevent a war between two packs of wolves.
The game has you going through some of the events of the movie in chronological order, and each event is conveyed by its own minigame. The log riding minigame is more like sledding, as you try to make it to the finish line before your opponent reaches it or time runs out. Wolf running has you jumping over chasms, rocks, and trees, and you try to lead as many pack members as possible to the end of the trail. Wolf howling has you trying to hit the notes on-screen to create the perfect wolf melody, and goose golfing is simply minigolf with the added objective of picking up items along the way.
The minigames aren't difficult, but that's to be expected given the title's intended audience. Log riding is by far the most difficult game in the package, but it remains enjoyable due to the tricks you can pull off and the speed at which you can travel. Racing of any sort on a portable rarely feels fast, but the minigame accomplishes the sense of speed rather well. The wolf running game, which is probably the easiest in the package, is a nice little reflex test, and wolf howling makes for a very good Guitar Hero-like clone on a portable. In the goose golfing game, the courses are simple but numerous; players can constantly think about how to score the most points on each level.
There are a few things in Alpha and Omega that are bothersome, especially since these issues crop up fairly early. The most obvious flaw is that there are only four minigames in the compilation. Most games of this type tend to go for variety, but the focus here is on these four minigames and trying to squeeze as much out of it as possible. This becomes more problematic in the story mode, where players must often complete several sequences of the same minigame in each chapter, usually with a few different prerequisites for each session. Most of the games have you doing mostly the same things over and over again, but the wolf howling minigame provides the biggest sense of déjà vu because you only have six songs. These limitations dampen the fun to the point where the game can only be considered enjoyable in small doses and not prolonged sessions.
Sound doesn't usually stand out in a licensed game, especially a portable one, but this proves to be a big exception in Alpha and Omega. The effects are good enough, but the music really stands out here. While it is a bit muffled in spots, the music sounds like it was taken directly from the film; it's something that you'd rarely expect from a portable game. You wish there were more musical pieces, but what is available is quite good. The game only features the voice of the narrator, and while it will be disappointing for fans to not hear the voices of the other characters, the game provides plenty of high-quality voice samples from the narrator between every chapter. If there is one thing that could be improved, the note pops in the howling game tend to overshadow the music; decreasing the volume of that effect would've made the overall sound package that much better.
Depending on the screen you're viewing, the graphics can be considered decent or bare-bones. On the touch-screen, the graphics do their job well enough. The backgrounds in each minigame aren't exactly spectacular and suffer from a case of sameness. Character renders are fine, though the color of the wolves is the only thing that differentiates one character from another. The animations are good, but not amazing. The only impressive screen is in the wolf howling rhythm minigame, where you see reflections of each note icon in the water. On the upper screen, though, things fare worse, with little to no effort exhibited. Both the log riding and wolf running minigames only feature stats on the upper screen, but the wolf howling and goose golf minigames feature something else to view on that screen. The top screen features a minimum amount of animation. The birds in the wolf howling sequence, for example, are motionless as they fly to and away from their perch. The goose swinging the club in the goose golfing game only goes through four frames of animation for his swing. Alpha and Omega certainly isn't a good model of the DS' capabilities.
The controls are balanced, as they spend time equally on both touch-screen functionality and traditional control schemes. The controls for each of the minigames are responsive; both the touch-screen controls and the traditional controls work well without any feeling of lag. However, the only control issue you'll find involves one of the least-used features of the system. During the rhythm minigame, you activate the equivalent of "star power" by speaking into the microphone. The game seems to pick up actual taps to the mic better than voices, so the mechanic is limited to those who have the dexterity to initiate the power-up and get back to the touch-screen without missing a beat. Beyond that, there isn't much to criticize with the controls.
While it isn't exactly the best licensed game out for portable systems, Alpha and Omega for the NDS is surprisingly good at what it does. From a technical standpoint, the audio production values are quite high, and while the minigames are easy, they are enjoyable to play in short bursts. The real gripe is that there are only four minigames to play, but if you're the type of person who doesn't mind having a meager selection of minigames, you'll be fine with this title. It's a recommended rental, though only die-hard fans of the movie should consider owning it due to the limited minigame selection.
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