"Just don't expect anything more than an unsurprising, solid, enjoyable experience. "
Who doesn't love the Muppets, eh? Well probably a lot of people but they are irrelevant to my review (And, quite frankly, to the world as a whole). Their jokes are not funny, their movies are not clever and, so far, their games haven't been too impressive either. But they just hold a certain appeal, and unexplainable charm. As does this game. Sure it has the muppet appeal in spades, but that's not it. There's something about it's (albeit derivative) blending of large sprawling explorable levels with small linear action packed ones. So here we have a game with large, linear, explorable and action packed levels. And with loading times the size of Miss Piggy.
The story is quite simple, but it sets everything up well. The Muppets decide to go to Castle Von Honeydew (The last part really spoils the ominous potential don't you think? Kind of like having a monster called Golgomore the.... mitten wearer). They may or may not have relatives there (My instruction booklet is missing, so I'm not sure) but as soon as the door is opened most of the muppets are transformed into hideous monsters and are transported, conveniently, to large boss-arena like rooms where they will stay and cause no havoc whatsoever. They must be stopped! It's your job as Kermitt's nephew (Along with the three remaining muppets: Pepe the prawn, the bald green doctor guy with glasses and the weird oblong one who squeaks a lot. He's pink) to exorcise them of these evil demons. This is helped, somehow, by collecting assorted shiny objects.
And so starts an adventure that you think will turn out to be a lackluster, boring Crash Bandicoot clone. But it's not! MMA is unoriginal, sure, but it's taken the best bits out of other games and melded them seamlessly into it's own, with a hell of a lot of character and an excellent control system. It involves collecting enough, er, balls of magic energy to open up the level exit. Along the way tasks will be performed and levels fully explored to retrieve muppet tokens (Needed for opening up later levels). Otherwise it's the usual assortment of extra lives and all that rubbish.
So it's core ideas are tried, tested and tired, but the game itself is wonderfully enthusiastic and great fun to play. You are equipped with a special glove that will kill most enemies (but not the armoured ones) and a spin attack that can take out the armoured ones (But not the big ones), this system is identical to Spyro's, but it's used very well here. Plus the sight and sound of shooting off your glove is very satisfying. You also have the option to run instead of walk with the press of one of the shoulder buttons (An ability which is sorely needed in a lot of platformers) and the standard jump. Then you have your monstrous muppet morphing moves.
You see, in the first two levels, you can collect a number of muppet-faced tokens. Doing so will give you the abilities of whatever muppet was on the token. Finding the tokens is hardly a chore, and only goes on for the first two levels of the game, so I don't see why they didn't give you the moves to begin with, but oh well. These include a vampire-gonzo batwing glide (Not entirely dissimilar to Spyro's glide) a karate chop from zombie miss piggy to break down doors, a swimming ability from some god ugly muppet I've never seen before (He appears to be a stoner) and a climbing ability from that irritating bear, Fozzy or something.
You'd think all these extra moves would make for a convoluted control system. Not so! All of these four extra moves are assigned to the triangle button. It's a context sensitive thing. If your standing near a break-downable door, the miss piggy symbol will appear on-screen and you can then press triangle to use her karate chop. The same goes for all the other symbols, if you land in water, jump into the air, stand near a climbable surface, whatever, the appropriate symbol will come up. So the controls are well-planned and impeccably tight.
The game as a whole is actually very well programmed, no glitching, it all runs smoothly, you'd think this wasn't a licensed game with no hype and rather a major franchise continuation the way it's been crafted so lovingly. The camera is even decent! It's a shame it's not quite so original though. It does steal shamelessly from other platformers and at times does seem a little too basic.
It's essentially a meld of very simple, block-pushing, switch-hitting puzzles combined with some effortless but fun enemy-killing platform-leaping action. It all works very well and there's a lot of variety, but it can still get repetitive. The block pushing puzzles and the 'collect all the little objects within a time limit' side games begin to repeat themselves, until you can't help but think that the game is one big regurgitation after another, not just of other games but of itself too.
But aside from that, it does nothing wrong really. the puzzles and games may get repetitive but they are fun even the third time round, and the normal platforming parts are surprisingly well designed. Some real tense, frantic and enjoyable moments have been created here. The level design, for one, is superb. It's linear but it's also huge, and has quite a few side areas to explore, and it all fits together perfectly. You'd think that the limited theme of the levels (Due to the name, all 18 of them are obligated to stick to the spooky theme) but the developers have done an excellent job of conjuring up some real creative areas. From the simple graveyards to the medieval castles to the haunted marshes to the monster-infested Arabian palaces. Each level is, ahem, a 'scream'.
And the level setting bring up some excellent ideas for the enemies too. Gravestones will uproot themselves and charge at you, and the marsh piranhas are not to be messed with. The huge but timid looking knights are also hilarious. And that's part of the game's appeal it has such character. The enemies are a bizarre folk designed with an excess of personality that you can't help but love them. And then kill them of course. There are muppets here too, ones to help you. As well as the boss muppets you must fight (With heavily pattern-based battles reminiscent of those seen in Crash Bandicoot). It's a game that's just bursting with cartoon ambience and that's part of the reason it's so compelling.
The music goes a long way to add to this. Some might find it intrusive (It can never ever be considered, in any form, subtle. You will notice it's presence CONSTANTLY) but I think it's simply marvellous. It's loud, cheery, innocent and creepy in a Count from Sesame street kind of way. It's almost slapstick, but it's very likable. It's always catchy and really fun to listen to while playing, it's bright charismatic and endearing. Representative of the game as a package really. Also present are the muppet voices. Your main character's voice is very whiny, but luckily he doesn't talk much. Your game guide Pepe the prawn's dodgy Mexican accent starts to grate after a while but then, it just stops. You like him, you like his awkwardly unfunny clips and his annoying habit of saying 'okay' after every sentence. No reason, you just do, he becomes a part of your comedy gaming world, and you accept him. And I can't get enough of the frightened squeaking noise the weird pink oblong one makes when you set him on fire and send him flying.
It's an attractive game too. There are millions of little level details like shiny marble floors (Complete with crazy homicidal floor buffers) and strange gothic architecture that just make that muppet world a little more convincing. It's colourful, it's fluid and it's entirely atmospheric. It's not as beautiful as spyro or as stylised as crash, but it's got that Muppet authenticity and it's thoroughly well designed. Character animation, as I mentioned before, is exemplary.
It's not a short game either. Getting to the end of the game is a fair old trek, as there is a lot to see and do. You won't get away with accomplishing the bare minimum either, you will have to have collected most of the energy balls and muppet tokens to reach the final boss, and that's not an easy task. Then of course there's collecting absolutely EVERYTHING which will add hours onto the game. And, as an added incentive, when you go through an already completed level, killing an enemy will reward you with a coin. These coins can be spent at the coffin shop, where there are hundreds of movie clips, pieces of production art and humorous sound files on offer. And most of them are worth the money.
So in the end it's far better than I expected. It hasn't set it's sights on brilliance, but it's achieved everything it went after. It's entirely unoriginal (Sometimes this is painfully evident) but flawlessly done. For fans of muppets and platforming (Not necessarily of both) this is essential. Just don't expect anything more than an unsurprising, solid, enjoyable experience.
+ Buckets of that Muppet atmosphere
+ Aesthetically brilliant
+ Great controls
+ Lots of fun
+ Plenty of stuff to do
+ Lasts for ages, with a lot of extra rewards to unlock
+ Fantastic music
+ Not entirely linear, but still fast moving
+ Good camera, for once!
+ Brilliant level design
- Steals shamelessly from other platformers
- Repeats itself
- Main character annoying
- Sometimes feels a little basic
If you like this....
Spyro the dragon - Playstation: MMA's biggest 'inspiration'. Very good.
Crash Bandicoot Warped - Playstation: Fast frantic action. MMA 'borrows' a little from here too.
Community review by maxh (Date unavailable)
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