Where The Wild Things Are (Wii) Review
Ahh, another summer holiday period, another movie targeted towards a wider audience. And of course, with that, yet another tie-in video game to go with the film, which releases this week in Australia. Where The Wild Things Are is the apparently eagerly awaited adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s extremely popular children’s book of the same name. While I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the movie or the videogame adaptation, I am surprised to find that the game actually isn’t a horrible mess like most tie-ins. Of course, that being said, it’s really nothing overly special either. But, really, what did you expect from a game that lasts around six hours and is based on a book made up of very small amounts of sentences. Things are just dying to be drawn out.
Where The Wild Things Are follows the story of Max, a young boy who has arrived at the island of “Wild Things”. Just as an aside here, there is no explanation as to why Max has arrived, why he’s wearing the animal-style suit in the game or what the Wild Things actually are – the game assumes you’ve read the book to explain these points. In doing so, the game also assumes you realise that the book wasn’t much of a good source for an action-adventure video game and as such requires you to give concession to its complete lack of synchronisation with the source material. Max meets up with the Wild Things at their own village and then explores the island with them, discovering a few sinister plot developments here and there. We won’t spoil it here, but the creative liberties that Griptonite have taken with the game are somewhat disconcerting – at the same time, I can’t help but wonder that there really was nothing else to do with the source material without making the game itself more boring than it already is.
The biggest surprise with Where The Wild Things Are is that the game’s graphical presentation is actually quite stunning. Textures are very high detailed, character models successfully replicate their looks from the film and/or book and the environments themselves scream atmosphere. Rabbits and smaller creatures run around the lush green planes in some levels and this really adds to the games liveliness. In addition to the smooth textures and well-crafted environments, the game also employs bloom lighting for some truly dynamic experiences. Players will find themselves quite impressed when so much is going on in both the foreground and the background of the island while still keeping at a relatively healthy frame rate. There are some pre-rendered cutscenes created specifically for the game and, while they look nice, they do change to a rather jarring standard definition, non-widescreen format which just looks strange after playing the whole game in widescreen. All in all though, a lot of care and graphical polish went into Where The Wild Things Are and it really shows.
In terms of gameplay, Where The Wild Things Are plays it relatively safe with it’s control scheme. There is little implementation of motion controls for the sake of motion controls, and most of the button controls are smoothly integrated into the gameplay to ensure a lack of, well, needlessly tacked-on gameplay. The Nunchuck is used to move Max around, while the Remote’s trigger is used to attack with Max’s sceptre. Max can direct any of the Wild Things towards objects by hitting them with his sceptre, and the Wild Thing will proceed to use their “ability” to help him out – either by destroying an obstacle or opening up a new path for Max. Additionally, in a rather heart warming sequence, pressing the 1-button near a Wild Thing will initiate a hug sequence that heals Max. I’d be lying if it didn’t make me smile every time I did it. Finally, the platforming segments are broken up with some pretty fast paced scenarios in which Max rides a Wild Thing or sails through the seas. These sequences are pulled off in a manner that really puts weight behind your actions, making them rather intense and fun to play. I know they were definitely the highlight of the game for me.
There are some inherent problems with the game though, namely the combat system. If you had to categorise Where The Wild Things Are, it would be a hack-and-slash. Mashing the trigger during almost any battle will get Max out of a bind without any real hindrances. Sure, it’s easy, but with such a low number of unique enemies in the game, it gets pretty laborious pretty fast. Still, as previously said, there really wasn’t a whole lot of stuff to work from in the original book, but with so much creative liberties being taken it wouldn’t have hurt Griptonite to introduce some new enemies into the series. Additionally, the game tries to artificially pad itself by implementing dozens of different collectibles into each chapter, which no sane player would ever push themselves to obtain. There is a “hub” world for the game in which Max can interact with the Wild Things, be it dancing or throwing rocks at them, and, while it’s a nice touch, it’s rather pointless.
Where The Wild Things Are features some very well done sound design that feels lifted straight from the movie. Pieces playing during Max’s adventures through the island are very evocative and melancholic, a very dark foreshadowing of what’s to come in the game’s narrative. In this regard, the game’s soundtrack really is nothing short of perfect and fitting for the game’s tone, something that can be rare these days. Voice acting is thankfully included, and most of the characters sound like their movie counterparts, or at least sound a lot like them (but I only have movie trailers to compare with, as the film has not been released here yet.)
As previously mentioned, Where The Wild Things Are takes approximately six to ten hours to complete, with most players probably gravitating towards the lower end of this continuum. In addition to the main storyline, there are a few secrets strewn throughout the village or hub world, but most players will lose interest before finding them all. Lastly, the game is incredibly easy, even on the hard mode. Most children will not find much difficulty as there is little to no penalty for dying; the game just transports players back to a checkpoint upon “death” (which are very plentiful).
Where The Wild Things Are is a very hard game to recommend to those who have not seen the movie or read the book. From the get go, it eliminates any potential audiences who have not been exposed to either and omits important and pertinent plot points. Additionally, the game’s gameplay can get rather lacklustre at times and is too simplistic to recommend to most gamers, though children and parents can definitely find solace in a non-violent and non-challenging platformer. Just don’t expect it to live up to the book (or, hopefully, the film).
A nicely crafted engine that is able to display quite a bit of activity without any major drops in frame rate. Textures are brilliantly rendered and environments feel alive, while all characters have their looks transposed into the game with little to no discrepancies.
A rather boring and lacklustre repetition of platforming and collecting. Some pretty enjoyable racing segments push the gameplay into acceptable, though unfortunately these segments take a back seat to the more, well, boring gameplay.
Quite possibly the best element of Where The Wild Things Are. The soundtrack and voice acting feel as if theyve been lifted directly out of the film, with some brilliantly executed and placed musical pieces accompanying the storys events.
While there is quite a bit to collect after completing the game, its high improbable that anyone will actually be bothered to put the extra mileage in.
I really wanted to enjoy this but, unfortunately, the lack of compelling gameplay and rather bizarre handling of the source material really put me off.