Anytime you sit down to play a movie tie-in game, you have to be wary. These games have developed a reputation as being uninspired, quickly churned out messes released to coincide with people's desire to see the movie. Sometimes games buck this trend, and range from decent (Green Lantern) to quite good (Toy Story 3). When I saw Madagascar 3 at my local Redbox, I figured I'd roll the dice and check it out with my 11 year old son. Almost immediately, I regretted the decision, as Madagascar 3 is one of the most boring and repetitive games I've ever played, even with a buddy along for the ride.
Like most families, we enjoy the Madagascar films. The zany antics of the animals keep the kids interested, but there are plenty of jokes for the adults in the audience, too. Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippopatamus, and Melman the Giraffe are funny, and get into all manner of hilarious situations. You would think that there is some potential there for some good, or even, average, video gaming, but all of the fun has been sucked out of the license and there is little left to enjoy.
The primary concern is that Madagascar 3 is 90% fetch quests. The beloved penguins, in their militaristic manner, assign missions, which must be completed in order. A different pair of animals is available for each mission, and each of these animals have different abilities. Alex can roar and balance on flagpoles, Melman can sneeze (not kidding) and stomp his feet, that sort of thing. The selected animal couple is dropped into a European city, and sent to retrieve something for the penguins. This same procedure takes place over and over again, with little variation.
There are several problems with these fetch quests. Some of the earliest have clearly marked goals, with a pillar of light marking the objective. Others are more confusing, like one where you must find a monkey moving around the city placing circus posters. The mini-map is cluttered and hard to use, leading to frustration. Compounding the problem is the sameness of the environments; when so many places look alike, it's tough to tell where you have already been. The biggest problem, though, is boredom. The fetching is repetitive that even as an adult, I quickly lost interest. I cannot imagine the target audience, young children, finding it fun to wander through these cities.
Even the co-op is rather humdrum. Two players can play at the same time, each controlling one of the two critters selected for the mission. The viewpoint is split screen, and the animals are not tethered together in any way. In order to reach the goal, the special abilities of both animals are needed; you might need Gloria to swim to a location, which opens up an area where Melman's foot stomp is required, that sort of thing. It's hardly groundbreaking but not above average by any means, either.
The developers made an attempt at including a stealth element to Madagascar 3, unbelieveable as that sounds. There are animal control officers on the prowl, and if they catch you, the mission restarts. To avoid these enemies, you can hit the disguise button, where your animal wears funny glasses and slows down to a walk. It's difficult to tell whether you are in disguise mode without panning the camera around to your character's face, which is irritating. Obviously the intention was to add some tension to the experience, but the stealth aspects are poorly implemented to the point of frustration.
All told, Madagascar 3 is the textbook definition of a bad movie game. The "go get this" missions are boring, and the few racing and mini-game sections are not enough to spice it up. All of the fun and humor of the films has been drained away, leaving only a pedestrian exercise in frustration. Even King Julian's appearance in the cut scenes can't save Madagascar 3. I reservedly recommended it as a rental at best; even the most dedicated fans of Alex and the rest of the crew will find this one distasteful.
Editor's note: This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.