Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: Avalanche Software
N Amer - 03/27/2007
Meet the Robinsons Review
The birth of the Pixar and Disney alliance brought about a new era in animation. Within a couple of years of Toy Story's release, Disney had announced plans to produce additional 3D-animated flicks on its own.
Not much came from the announcement. Outside of Dinosaur, there aren’t any full-length titles that come to mind. At the same time, Pixar developed and released six other hits, including Cars, The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo. Disney and Pixar have since decided to play nice. Disney purchased the company from Steve Jobs for several billion dollars, officially ending to the dispute about who deserves a greater profit share.
Still, one question remains: can Disney’s own internal storytellers make a film as compelling as Pixar? We’ll know this month when Disney releases Meet the Robinsons, a kooky comedy about a family from the future.
Meet the Good
Meet the Robinsons is a 3D action/adventure with the flavors of kid-friendly shooters and Super Monkey Ball. It's a strange marriage, but we should've known it'd happen eventually. A non-violent FPS walks into a bar, makes eyes at a ball-encased primate, and the rest is history.
FPS: "Hey good-lookin'."
The shooter side of Robinsons is lighthearted and played from a third-person perspective. Since you can't shoot and explode everything in sight, levels do not contain the common amount of destructible objects. In fact, while most developers and game players consider destruction to be a worthy source of entertainment, Meet the Robinsons takes a simpler, friendlier route. Rather than destroy items, you disassemble them. So while it may look like items are being blasted and shot into the air, they are not. They are merely being taken apart, giving Wilbur – our hero-in-the-making – a chance to snatch whatever useful item may be held inside.
Disassembling is a big part of the adventure. Wilbur can lock-on to virtually every object in sight, including friends and family members. Of course, you don’t want to shoot family members. Just think of the awkward conversations that would follow. “Uhh, dad? I don’t know how to say this, but… I think I just disassembled grandpa.” But if you do happen to shoot one, the blast will bounce off without causing any long-term damage.
To decipher which objects should be disassembled, Wilbur can use his scanning device to check for items that are critical to the mission’s success. Most are not. Most of the couches, tables, and chairs disbanded will contain one of three standard items. You’ll need them, but can only carry a max of 40 each. That total is reached pretty quickly, eliminating the need for aimless dismantling.
That’s where the scanner comes in handy. It has two effects. The first turns the world black and white for a couple seconds, highlighting every hidden item in the room and their location(s). The second is more direct, scanning one specific thing (generally a human, robot, or frog musician) to retrieve information that ranges from trivial to nearly important. It works like the scan function in the Final Fantasy games, launching a brief bio about the character that’s been scanned. The difference here is that there is no MP or HP data to retrieve, nor any elemental ailments to worry about avoiding.
Missions are linear and are filled with backtracking. Wilbur will find himself in several cumbersome situations that require him to revisit areas that have already been explored. He will then have to return the areas that triggered the revisiting of previous locales, and revisit those and other locations once more. When all is said and done, he will have walked in more circles than an indecisive politician.
The excuses used to explain all this backtracking are not uncommon. Find a key, find a new route, find a new item to make a key, etc.
In between backtracking segments are story sequences, bits of decent music, and a few mini-games to distract players from the main goal. They include the Super Monkey Ball-inspired levels where Wilbur must navigate through both straightforward and non-linear mazes using a transparent ball. Another mini-game will take you back to the 80s, placing Wilbur in a 2D, top-down world. Moving from side-to-side like a hockey goalie, players must protect their goals while launching blasts off two side panels. Each player is given several blocks that protect the goal. Once the blocks have been destroyed (not disassembled in this case), the goal becomes vulnerable. One hit and the shooting player scores. This process repeats with varying goal and barrier shapes / patterns.
Meet the Bad
Let's recap: “Wilbur will find himself in several cumbersome situations that—.”
Unfortunately, I can stop right there. Cumbersome situations are not my idea of entertainment. Endless backtracking, a lack of guidance, an annoying map system, choppy controls, and a jumpy camera – are like salt on a cake. But salt works on some things: chips, pretzels, crackers, and other snack foods. Choppy controls, however, have not proved to enhance the flavor of any game.
If Meet the Robinsons had achieved its goals, it would’ve been a great game for that same audience. But no matter what, there isn’t anything here to excite kids except for characters they will soon be familiar with. That is, assuming Meet the Robinsons becomes a smash at the box office. If not, there won’t be any reason for them to play this game.
Review Scoring Details for Meet the Robinsons
Kids want action, excitement, or at the very least, Mario Party-quality mini-games that induce hysteria. The only thing Meet the Robinsons induces is a sense of languor. The clunky controls, half-baked camera, tiring objectives and endless backtracking do not create an inviting gameplay experience.
Meet the Robinsons’s character animations aren’t too bad, but the overall look of the game is rather dated. The visuals lack color, variety, and polygonal depth.
The music is good and the voice acting is decent, but character dialogue is generally reserved for quips and mission reiterations.
Meet the Robinsons is a very easy game. However, the mission explanations will lead you to believe otherwise. Kids who are new to the genre (and are thus not used to its many traits) will be confused by the weak mission advice.
It’s not everyday that a game tries to merge adventure elements with bits of Super Monkey Ball. Having said that, the execution is far from living up to Monkey Ball’s heritage.
This is not a game kids will want to meet. They may ask for it by name, and certainly they mean well. But if you can, rent it first. See how much they play it, and compare that time to how much they spend with other games.