"Meet The Robinsons is the type of light-hearted, family-friendly adventure that parents can feel safe about letting their pre-teens play. There is no death, no vulgar humor, no person-on-person violence, and the gameplay is challenging without being frustrating."
Tell a young boy not to touch something and you have a 50/50 chance that heíll listen. Tell him not to touch a priceless time machine and you might as well hand him the keys. Wilbur Robinson never meant any harm, but trouble takes on a whole new meaning when you live with a futuristic family of scientific geniuses. He only wanted to flesh out his collection of photos with famous people of the past. One tiny mistake later and the evil Bowler Hat Guy is blasting off with the time machine. Wilbur could tell his dad, but why risk punishment when he can sneak into his dadís laboratory, ďborrowĒ the prototype machine, and fix everything with no one the wiser?
Wilburís day had begun innocently enough with a self-portrait inside the tomb of King Tut. A little misstep on a booby trap and the whole place starts crumbling around him. Behind the controller, you donít have much to worry about except running forward as fast as you can. Wilbur will take care of the rest, automatically hopping over obstacles and leaping like a spider monkey over gaps in your path. If you go over the edge of chasm, he reaches back and hangs on until you pull him back to safety. Even when the giant head of a statue starts rolling after you like a scene from Indiana Jones, all you have to do is keep running straight ahead. Good thing this is only the introduction.
Back at the house you will have the chance to try out some of the toys Wilbur gets to use on his adventures. After all, what fun would the future be without some cool gadgets to go with it? Thereís the Diassembler which, as the name suggests, shoots a ray to break objects down. Collect the parts, combine them with hidden blueprints, and you can create new gadgets and clothes through the Transmogrifier. Thereís the strangely dangerous piece of sporting equipment, the Chargeball Glove, that shoots a ball of powerful electricity. When speed and safety count, you can roll around in an overgrown hamster ball called a Protectosphere. Last, but not least is the Scanner which provides valuable clues to interacting with your environment.
Now itís time to sneak through the laboratory to nab the prototype. This should be the first test of Wilburís agility and your gadget skills, but the real challenge is wrestling with the controls. The camera is finicky at best. Instead of dutifully following behind Wilbur, it just sits in the same spot. That is, until you need it to stay still. At least you can control it manually, which you will certainly do for the entire game. Then there is the lock-on button used to target enemies and the abundance of environmental objects. Seriously though, something is very wrong when you have three giant robots about to flatten you and the game locks on to a harmless box off in the distance. If it does target the correct enemy, it will probably disengage and retarget something else a moment later. Again, there is a manual aiming option, but it is so cumbersome that you are usually better off taking un-aimed potshots and hoping for the best.
If you can nail down the controls, Meet the Robinsons actually has some nice surprises in store for you. The levels are vibrant, expansive, and the architecture is flecked with just enough detail to be interesting, if not wholly unbelievable. Why someone would put a skinny Protectoshpere track 50 stories in the air is beyond me. Elevators are so much safer. Whether youíre rotating a series of moving walkways or charging electrical stations in the correct order with your glove, the puzzles provide just enough of a challenge to be fun instead of aggravating. For the curious, there are a ton of containers with secret blueprints and unlockable artwork hidden throughout the levels. They are actually quite easy to find, but itís still nice to have a reward for peeking around every corner.
Did you forget about Bowler Hat Guy? I certainly did. After a while, the botched controls had become a mere afterthought, leaving the lackluster story sticking out like a sore thumb. Although you start off by chasing Bowler Hat Guy in your prototype time machine, you spend the majority of the game just trying to get it back. Thatís right. Wilbur loses not one, but two time machines in the same day. What I hoped would be a frantic time-hopping adventure turned out to be a romp through Wilburís own city. At least he got stuck in the future.
If you consider yourself a hardcore gamer, Meet the Robinsons probably isnít anywhere near the top of your most-wanted list. Thatís okay, because it was not made with you in mind. Meet The Robinsons is the type of light-hearted, family-friendly adventure that parents can feel safe about letting their pre-teens play. There is no death, no vulgar humor, no person-on-person violence, and the gameplay is challenging without being frustrating. For me, Meet the Robinsons felt like a kiddy-lite version of the renowned Ratchet & Clank series. Although I prefer something more demanding, Meet the Robinsons is still a solid choice for the budding gamer.
Staff review by Brian Rowe (April 06, 2007)
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