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Fairly OddParents: Breakin' Da Rules
Score: 50%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: THQ
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
The Fairly OddParents is not the most intricate looking animation on TV, so it should come as no surprise that the game follows suit. The entire game uses a semi-cel shaded look (which is more cel than shaded) to depict the show's cast. This effect really works and does a great job of getting the graphics as close to the show without developing some technical-busting way to make the game look exactly like the cartoon. Level design is all about variety and style - two things the game excels at. Each level has its own distinct feel. This is also carried on into the elements of your life display. In one level it may be dots on a chin (or something like that, I never figured it out) and in the next it is Atari-style video game stuff. Some of the special effects are good, but a little overdone at times. Once you get around the third level, you'll cringe each time you see the giant 'POOF' clouds that accompany Cosmo and Wanda's appearances.

Enjoy the looks, because it is all downhill from here.

Sound starts out with a grand vision, but does not follow through with the execution. The actors for the major characters from the show provide their voices, as do some of the more notable 'minor characters' (like Jorgan Von Strangle). Music is upbeat and usually fits with the theme of the level. The problem that plagues the entire sound department is poor sound quality and repetition. The voice quality during cut scenes (and believe me, there are A LOT of them) is bad. You can clearly understand what is being said, but it sounds like it is coming out of a monotone speaker on its way out. Sound effects don't run into this problem. I always like it when games throw in 'chatter' during a game. What I do not like is when the chatter is the same two or three lines over and over and over again. This is a major problem in the game. To compound matters, these little sayings come at least every 30 seconds or so, and there is no guarantee that you will not hear the same saying two or three times in a row.

Fairly OddParents: Breakin' Da Rules is a fairly straightforward platformer. Following the plot of the show, Timmy Turner is once again left at home with his evil babysitter Vicki. In a fit of anger, Timmy wishes that his fairy god parents, Cosmo and Wanda, could do something to get rid of Vicki. However, showing themselves to anyone but Timmy is against Da Rules, so Timmy wishes that they (Da Rules) didn't exist. Cosmo foolishly grants this wish. As a side effect of the wish, the next person to touch the Da Rules is given full wish granting power and, as luck would have it, Vicki just happens to pick up the book. The wish also gets the fairies in trouble with the fairy court, led by Jorgan Von Strangle. After the trial, Cosmo and Wanda are stripped of their wands and told they have 49 and 1/2 hours to get all the pages of Da Rules back. Since the fairies are reduced to using training wands, they must rely on Timmy to help them out.

Each level in the game starts at Timmy's house, which serves as a central hub for all the levels. After finding the level's start point, a short cut scene plays that sets up the level as well as Vicki's wish - which puts you into the next level. The levels are imaginative and are some of the strongest aspects of the game. However, they are also extremely repetitive and bogged down by technical glitches (and some lame brain design moves). The point of each level is to collect 5 wishing stars, which will help power up Cosmo and Wanda's wands. After collecting 5 stars in a section, Timmy will usually make a wish that sets up the next level. What he wishes for depends on the situation.

As Timmy goes through each level, he can collect fairy crowns. Once he collects 100 of them, he is granted an extra life. Timmy can also collect Crimson Chin trading cards, which unlock secrets in the extras gallery. And, this is about as deep as the game gets. After completing the game, you can choose to go back and collect everything in a level (although it is rather hard to miss all the secrets your first time through since they are in the most obvious of places), but that is about it.

When it comes to games aimed towards kids, a general rule of thumb is that if I have a hard time with the game, then it is a sure bet a kid will have problems. It is not that Fairly OddParents: Breakin' Da Rules is hard, it is just that the game has to deal with technical glitches, a poorly executed training mode and bone-head design issues. I will expand on the game's control issues later, but let's just say they are not that good. The training level is terrible because it only gives you half of the information you need to play the game. To make matters worse, you are not given information that is missing in the training level during the game - so you have to figure out things. Since this is a kid-aimed game, there is no violent content. Instead of killing enemies, you knock them out for a few seconds. This is easier said than done because there is no lock-on option, so most of the time you are using your weapon (when you have one) and hoping that it hits your target. The knock out time is also incredibly short, so you had better high-tail it out of the area quickly. Navigation through levels is easy and there are few secrets to find. Boss battles are also easy once you figure out the rudimentary patterns they use or discover the method the developers intended you to use but were not kind enough to tell you (or even clue you in on).

Throughout the game you have the option of asking Cosmo and Wanda for help by pressing the R1 button. Unless I was using it at the wrong time whenever I tried, this is not helpful. Most of the 'help' I received was stupid Cosmo-isms like 'One day everyone will live in TVs'. Huh? Great, but how does that help me with this level?

Game Mechanics:
If you were to believe the training mission, you would think that the game used only three buttons: X, R1 and L1. Once you get into the game, you discover that this is not true. What is worse, you are usually left to figure out things for yourself. Instead of telling you to hit the Square button to target and Circle to use the grappling chin, the game tells you to aim and use the Action button (neither button is defined in the game). Granted it tells you that Circle shoots the hook, but this is only after you figure out the aim button and only when you are in a small corridor of a viewing area. Later in this level, you are told to pull a helicopter out of the sky with the chin grappling hook. Of course, you are not told how this is supposed to happen and you are instead left to figuring it out. All the game tells you is that you have to ease up on the pull when it gets tense. How you are supposed to do this is anyone's guess. Since I had been using the Circle button to use the hook throughout the level, I figured I had to tap it in order to reel in the helicopter. As I soon found out, this was not how it worked. Instead I had to pull back on the left analog stick. This makes a whole lot of sense because you do not use the analog stick to do anything related to hooking things in the rest of the level (unless you count aiming). How about getting some use out of Cosmo and Wanda's quips in the game and having them tell me this information? The targeting button also seemed to crap out on me at times during this fight. I would sometimes have to jam the button in twice in order to get the game to respond. It is the little things like this that are scattered throughout that game that annoyed me to no end.

Jumping is a vital part of any platform game. Since that is exactly what the game is, you should expect a lot of jumping - right? Yes and no. While it is true that you will jump around in areas, you are not likely to hit some jumps. Whether from camera control issues, or the unresponsive controls, there are multiple times where you will try to make a jump only to misjudge and plummet to your doom. This makes most jumps in the game feel like that first building to building leap Neo has to make in the Matrix. Do not take this as saying every jump is like this - but there are more moments of this then I would have liked to have experienced. The double jump move also suffers from the unresponsive controls since you will sometimes have to double jump two or three times in order to nail the timing for the height.

I like the Fairly OddParents show - so I really wanted to like the game. Despite my best hopes of the game turning out well, the game just never materializes into what it could be. Even fans of the show should take this one off their wish list.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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