"There's seemingly an unwritten set of rules by which all licensed Game Boy Color games must follow. Rule one dictates that they must be platformers. Rule two states that they must have about as much substance and intelligence as Anna Nicole Smith. And rule three states that, if it's a children's franchise that is being ported, the game can feel free to be just about as dire as it wants. And if these rules are the factors that judge whether or not a licensed game is worth it's salt, then Rugrats:..."
There's seemingly an unwritten set of rules by which all licensed Game Boy Color games must follow. Rule one dictates that they must be platformers. Rule two states that they must have about as much substance and intelligence as Anna Nicole Smith. And rule three states that, if it's a children's franchise that is being ported, the game can feel free to be just about as dire as it wants. And if these rules are the factors that judge whether or not a licensed game is worth it's salt, then Rugrats: The Movie is top of the class.
Sometimes I wonder why I own this game. I remember buying it. I must have been about sixteen at the time, and I tried to buy the GBC Bomberman game. Taking the display case to the counter I was informed that they had actually sold out of that game (on a side note, I still haven't got that game.... maybe someday I should do something about that). However, the girl behind the checkout was reasonably cute, and being a sixteen year old hormonal time bomb, I decided to play it cool and act like I wasn't really fussed what game I got, and picked up one of the first games on the shelf. In retrospect, buying a Rugrats game was probably not the coolest way to play that situation. Still, you live and learn.
Apparently this game follows the plot of the movie. Now, I have no desire to see the film whatsoever (I've seen the show a few times, but that's about it), but I'm guessing that if this game follows the plot, then the movie has an extremely weak plot. From what I can gather, Baby Tommy (the undeniably smug and irritating baby that is the 'star' of the show) is about to leave the world of being an only child behind as his mother goes into labour, giving birth to a little brother for Tommy. In order to celebrate, Tommy waddles around a few crap stages, avoiding crap enemies, and generally just being crap. Dare you face the Spooky Basement?! Do you have the nerves of steel to cross the mole-infested garden?! Can you really be bothered to play any further than that?!
As platform games go, Rugrats at least tries to be a little more than just your average 'run from left to right, lather, rinse, and repeat' kind of deal. As you progress through each level (starting out in the basement of the house, before moving on to the maternity ward, ultimately heading, in open defiance of any common sense, toward a finale set in a decrepit mine shaft) you must collect a certain number of items to open up the exit. Sounds fair, although the developers seemed to suddenly realise that putting in any challenge to the game may put people off, and so decided to remove the need to collect items from the first few levels. Since it's pretty difficult to die in this game anyway, this move means that there is literally nothing worth doing for the first five to ten minutes of the game. Which is not really a good sign when the total game lasts a little over forty-five minutes at a push. And when you get to start collecting items (random orange objects dotted rather liberally around the stages) you learn that one touch from an enemy will mean that all your items return to their original location, and you effectively must start the level again. Now this surprised me to be honest with you - it's the sort of old-school brutality that harks back to crumbly platformers like Montezuma's Return, or Chuckie Egg, and is actually quite a nice attempt to add challenge. However, the game is really quite easy, so there is no real sense of loss when you are struck - no sense of failure, more a sense of weary resignation to the fact that you will have to plod back towards the start of the level. By the time you get to the stage where you actually might take a hit or two, you just don't care any more. Still, I'll give the developers credit for at least trying to implement a half decent idea.
The main concern about the game, though, isn't it's ease, but rather the infuriatingly slow speed at which Tommy ambles along. Remember back in the day when you could get special controllers for the Mega Drive and SNES that had a slow motion feature? Basically all it did was rapidly pause and unpause the game, but it made it seem as if the character was moving at half the speed. It wasn't really a very good idea, so it never really caught on, except perhaps in the office of our plucky Rugrats development team. Yessir, Tommy really does move like he is trapped in slow motion hell - right down to his Neil Armstrong-esque slow-mo jumping. The game being so sedate in pace wouldn't have been a problem in itself, but the fact that the enemies are (until the last few stages) extremely few and far between - and on occasion even completely immobile - and that the levels are really quite empty, combined with the snail-speed action makes this game, well.... boring. There are a few entertaining diversions, such as a moment in the game where you get to ride a Reptar-boat (Reptar is the kiddie friendly version of Godzilla in the cartoon) down a river in an unexpectedly enjoyable level that is reminiscent of ancient classic Toobin', and the obligatory mine cart rides, but on the whole you'll find that your attention just keeps wandering while you're playing the game, which can never be what the developers intended.
However, the presentation in the game is excellent, especially when taking into consideration the fact that it was designed to work on the original Game Boy as well. The game follows the same slightly wobbly look that is employed in the cartoon, and combines it with bright, vibrant colours to present what was, perversely, one of the best looking titles available in the early days of the Game Boy Color. The levels look different enough to each other (unless they're set in roughly the same place, in which case they have an excuse), and Tommy and co. look about as faithful to the cartoon as the humble Game Boy Color could manage. However, the movement at times can suffer because of this, with the framerate often being horrible jerky. Indeed, it may be because of the fine graphics that the game runs so slowly, but really, if the developers think they can sacrifice the gameplay to that degree so that the game looks pretty then they deserve what stick they may get for it. Still, on the whole the game is pleasantly easy on the eye, which is a good thing, as Rugrats was in dire need of some redeeming features.
The game also opens with a very passable rendition of the cartoon's main theme tune. This is easily the aural highlight of the game, as none of the other tunes on display can reach this quality, but that isn't to say that the music on display throughout the rest of the game is bad - in fact it suits the graphical mood of the levels quite well by providing light, cheery tunes for the opening stages, and the is an attempt to move towards more tense tunes for the last levels (although despite a noble effort on the part of the sound engineers, I still maintain it is impossible to create tension in a game where the main character spends the duration of the action in a nappy).
Slick presentation just can't save this game though. It may look and sound quite pretty, but it's still a shocking title that nobody should really play. Despite picking up towards the end, it's ultimately a game that is short, easy, uninspired, slow, lifeless, and very dull. While the fact that it is a game meant for the youngsters will no doubt be used as an excuse for this, I don't buy it. Just because it's a kids game, doesn't mean that it's all right for it to be rubbish. Little people deserve quality games too, and they are just as likely to be angered by the patronising difficulty level and infuriatingly slow speed of the main character as anyone else. There was some effort here, but it didn't really stretch much beyond the presentation of the game. Don't buy it, even if it is just for you're little siblings, nephews, nieces, sons or daughters. If they're really Rugrats mental, just buy them a copy of the movie instead - it'll probably hold their attention longer than this game.
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)
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