The fourth entry in the saga of Shrek, the world’s favorite Scottish ogre, has just hit theaters, so it’s only natural that an iPhone game tie-in would appear on the App Store to coincide. The question is, does Shrek Forever After succeed as a stand-alone videogame, or is it just another movie licensed cash-in?
One of the best things about this game is its story, which has been nicely condensed to fit into cutscenes between levels. The game tells the tale of Shrek taking on the wicked Rumpelstiltskin in order to save his beloved Fiona. The voice acting is pretty strong, with reasonable approximations of the movie’s celebrity cast, but the lip syncing could make a stuffed animal cringe.
The game is divided into 11 fairly long levels. Each level has you doing a number of different things, from solving puzzles and fending off rowdy villagers, to racing Donkey around a busy town circle. The things you’ll do the most, however, are running and jumping, and here’s where the problems begin. Not only do the controls make navigating the game’s terrain somewhat difficult, but the camera often inhibits your ability to see where you’re going.
Like in most Gameloft games, you get an onscreen D-pad and a couple of action buttons. The D-pad isn’t as responsive as it needs to be and, to make matters worse, Shrek moves around very quickly. It’s almost like he’s skating from place to place rather than running. The jump button is also less than responsive, which becomes a big problem once you get to some of the more difficult platforming parts toward the end of the game. It’s not uncommon to lose several lives in a row because the game didn’t register your button inputs.
The old childhood game of stone the ogre.
The camera is also responsible for needless deaths. Your viewpoint moves on its own, which would be fine if it did a better job of showing you what danger lies ahead. On the contrary: often you’ll be running toward the camera and a pit will appear onscreen right before you have to jump, giving so little time to react that it seems more unfair than challenging. Other times, the camera will view the action from an odd angle that camouflages a pit in the ground, and you’ll accidentally slip into.
On the plus side, we enjoyed the level designs. Branching pathways give you multiple routes to get to the same place, and hidden offshoots sometimes lead to secrets. Some of the platforming parts, like when you have to jump from one raft to another to get across a stream, are well designed and would be a pleasure to play if the controls were tighter.
So although Shrek Forever After is full of cool ideas for a 3D platformer, we can’t recommend it in its current form. The poor controls and inadequate camera angles cause more damage than the thoughtful level designs and excellent gameplay variety can repair. If the developers had spent a little more time tightening things up, it might be a different story. But as is, this is one fairy tale you’re better off experiencing on the big screen.