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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Toys for Bob
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Platformer (3D)/ Themed/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a PS2 tie-in to the newest Dreamworks animated feature that once again follows that wacky crew from the New York Central Zoo. Alex the Lion, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the Hippo and Marty the Zebra all return, along with King Julien, Maurice, Mort and the crazed penguin group, plus you'll get to meet a few new characters as well, including Alex's father and a love interest for Gloria, Moto Moto. The graphics are fair, but considering how accustomed I have become to next-gen graphics, it's hard going back to PS2 graphics. I did notice some graphical glitches like bad seams with some bright, white flashing along their edges, but overall, they were acceptable. There are a few cut scenes to move the story along, some CG and some in-game, but they work well to progress the story and look pretty good.

Sound is a mixed bag. There are some catchy songs, especially in levels where you have to mimic dance moves like Volcano Rave, but the song (background music, essentially) that would play in between goals would hang up when you changed to a new location, or at least it would stutter. At any rate, it was distracting. Further, the voiceovers were okay, but none of the actors reprised their roles for the game. Melman and Marty were pretty well done, Alex and Gloria barely sounded like the actors they were supposed to and King Julien was perfect.

Generally, licensed games get a bad rap, and normally it is deserved. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is definitely licensed and decently implemented, but could still stand with some improvement. I can only assume that the game follows the storyline of the film, but since I haven't yet seen it, I can't be sure. It starts out with the gang in Madagascar with King Julien wanting to create a travel brochure for his country. He wants the other animals to engage in certain activities so that he can snap pictures of them in action and use them in his brochure. Contrived? A little bit, yes, but eh. So you begin as Alex, charged with netting butterflies so Julien can get some good shots. Julien then proceeds to give lots of different tasks to everyone, eventually flowing into the prep of the plane so that they can return to New York. Of course, as the commercials would tell us, they crash land in Africa instead of New York, and the story continues on from there.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is what I would classify as a mini-game/platformer title. Most of the levels or goals are mini-games, with a lot of them being platforming mini-games, but then there are certain areas where you will wander around, basically looking for new tasks. Mini-games can be anything from snapping photos to catching butterflies, to loading luggage, to beating King Julien at soccer. Once you arrive in Africa, you might have to treat some sick animals or close some steam vents as Melman; prove yourself worthy as a lion by wall-climbing or engaging in a dangerous game of Dodgeball or Hot Durian! as Alex; swim around a lagoon eliminating gators as Gloria or kick various things into place as Marty. Some mini-games might only last a few seconds or minutes, others a good deal longer, but they are all fairly rapid-fire, so kids should not get too bored.

The main bulk of the game is to progress through the story by accomplishing these mini-games, but if you'd rather just play some mini-games that you can individually choose, you can select Africa Arcade. Here, 10 mini-games are open for your enjoyment, so you can practice them here and be ready for when you encounter them in the game. They are: Mini-Golf (standard mini-golf), Monkey Match (memory matching), Melman's Clinic (sort of like Operation, but using an x-ray and a variety of treatments), Hot Durian! (Hot Potato), Juicy Juicy! (collect a set number of fruit pieces first, similar to Twisted Metal), Jungle Chess (standard chess with your favorite characters), Volcano Rave (a rhythm game where you match dance moves using your controller), Musical Chairs (just like it sounds), Soccer (basic soccer game), and the Diving Event (when your character takes a high dive, getting as high as they can while performing tricks for a high score). You'll also encounter each of these events within the game's Story mode.

As you progress through the game, you'll be collecting items that will yield you some bucks, which you can turn around and spend in the Duty Free Shop to buy clothes, videos and additional content for some of the mini-games, for instance extra songs in Volcano Rave. You'll also have the opportunity to view the monkeys you have collected in-game.

Some mini-games in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa are a little bit frustrating, but none are necessarily hard, per se. I have found that you can roll through about half of the game in a matter of a few hours, at the most. There are collectables that will add some time to the number of hours of gameplay contained in the game, but its fairly easy to breeze through. One thing that I found frustrating was the games that included a meter, such as when Marty has to time his kicks in soccer or whatever. The first time I played a soccer match, I was seriously working to make a goal by tricking the goalie. It didn't take long for me to realize that it really didn't matter if I timed it correctly according to what was going on in the game, I just had to time it with the kick meter. It sucked some of the fun out of it for me because of this. I realized the only skill needed was a bit of good timing, so it was far less challenging and far less like soccer. I guess that makes it easier for young kids, but a lot less of a challenge for older gamers.

Game Mechanics:
Controlling characters in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is pretty easy. You'll have the chance to play as your four favorites, Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria, plus Mort the Lemur and Private Penguin as well. Your character moves with the Left analog stick and you'll use the camera with the Right analog stick, but there were a few times that the camera got stuck and I was running along blindly, unable to see anything but the inside of a tree. Not fun. Depending on who you are playing as, you might have to throw some fruit as Alex in a game of dodgeball, double jump to reach high pick-ups, or roar to scare away vultures or other lions. As Marty, you are the workhorse, often being used to kick things like luggage to be loaded on a plane, or you may engage in a footrace, since Marty's a fast one. Gloria's no slouch, either, and she has to enter some races, only she'll be swimming, but she'll also have to clear paths by eating hot peppers (Huh? I totally don't remember that from the first movie) and gaining a boost or smashing things with her amazing butt-bounce. Finally, there's Melman, who is often called upon to use his head to head-butt things, whether it be moles trying to steal plane parts or luggage that needs closing. Perhaps there's a steam vent that needs closing and Melman has to balance on top of a large rock and push the other rock atop the steam vent. This particular part gave me some trouble as I maneuvered Melman into a spot where he couldn't move any longer and I had to restart the game. Bah. Melman is also good for getting out-of-reach things with his helicopter spin, which also serves as a cool combat move. Melman also has to treat other giraffes in his "clinic" as apparently all giraffes are hypochondriacs. They suffer from diseases like belly fish, butterflies and the dreaded indigestion.

Overall, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a decent tie-in game for the movie. There's a good bit of gameplay here and since they are mini-games, you can play for a little while or for a marathon gaming session. While the average gamer could burn through this game in a day or a weekend at the most, it would be a decent game to rent if your child is a fan of the movie. King Julien and his quips are pretty funny and enjoyable to watch, so they lighten things up a lot. Overall, Toys for Bob did try hard to make a licensed game that did make some sense and work with the theme of the movie and has a lot of different types of mini-games with platforming elements, so if that sounds like your style, rent it and check it out.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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