"What The Squeakquel brings to the table is nothing new; we've all seen rhythm games in the past in the form of games such as Rock Band, Guitar Hero and even Dance Dance Revolution. Alvin's latest outing comes closest to the last of those three and consists of gameplay where the player must do nothing more than use the stylus to match on-screen arrows, but that's where the similarities between the two titles end."
Throughout gaming history, games based off of movies haven't been very popular. Sure, you might see a kid ready to buy games based on familiar movies like "Cars" or the "Spider-Man" series, but for the most part, license-based fare never has had a particularly promising outlook. With that said, there still are cases where a game can manage an upset, particularly if the source material is bad enough.
Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel falls under this category.
What The Squeakquel brings to the table is nothing new; we've all seen rhythm games in the past in the form of games such as Rock Band, Guitar Hero and even Dance Dance Revolution. Alvin's latest outing comes closest to the last of those three and consists of gameplay where the player must do nothing more than use the stylus to match on-screen arrows, but that's where the similarities between the two titles end.
To complete the game, you'll need to follow Alvin, Simon, Theodore (who seems to have gotten even fatter than before) and the Chipettes (Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor) as they fly around the world, performing in different cities and even different countries. There are eleven venues in all. You'll spend your time trying to gather enough fans so that both the Chipmunks and the Chipettes can live their dream of playing in the Super Duper Dome in California. Clearly, the plot stays true to the identity of the musically-inclined Chipmunks.
The main goal in each city is to accumulate enough fans and points to advance to the next city. Reaching the minimum requirements will allow you to progress, but winning over the majority of the available fans within each city and a certain amount of points allows you to earn gold, slver or bronze medals and trophies. While this mechanic sounds like it should adds replay value, many players will have little difficulty obtaining gold in every event on the first go around.
As mentioned above, play follows a simple procedure: you use your stylus to interact with the arrows that appear on the screen. On the top screen, you'll see the Chipmunks or Chipettes dancing around, while at the middle of the screen there's a blue circle. Arrows pass through this circle and you must move your stylus along the bottom screen in the direction indicated by the next approaching arrow. For example, let's say that an arrow pointing to the right arrives. Push your stylus on the bottom screen and swipe it to the right just as that next arrow enters the blue circle. That's all there is to it. Arrows can point left or right or in any diagonal direction, plus there's a star bubble that you can clear by touching the screen anywhere you like.
While that core mechanic can seem repetitive, the game keeps things fresh for at least the first few levels by introducing mini-games with each new location that you visit. You could call these "breaks," but they're not as optional as that phrase implies; you can't completely ignore the mini-games because they help both your fan total and your score. If you're aiming for a perfect game, you'll have to play and master each mini-game. Doing so grows more difficult as you progress, but there are only three unique diversions: one where you touch stars, one where you avoid rising bars and one where you have to either collect music notes, catch stars or avoid red bubbles while moving around in a bubble yourself. Even as you reach the last stage, though, the mini-games aren't all that challenging.
The main game isn't terribly challenging, either, despite apparent efforts to the contrary. The pattern for each level is predictable, as stages often present the same pattern for about five times in a row before switching over to an even simpler pattern. That's annoying, but not to the same extent that the oft-repeated catch phrases are:
"You deserve an 'A' for 'awesome'!"
The cheers that often follow successful moves quickly get old. Thankfully, the rather short list of accompanying musical compositions contains some decent selections such as "Coast to Coast", "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and of course the famous song that is the trademark of the Chipmunks: "We're the Chipmunks". Since you're playing an Alvin and The Chipmunks game, the Chipmunk voices will likely wear on you pretty quickly even when you're enjoying the music.
For those who want to keep playing in spite of such irritants, there's not much in the way of good news. The game is incredibly short, so you can probably sit down and beat the game within an hour or two. While there is an available "Expert Mode", its primary difference is a slight difficulty increase that likely won't change your overall experience. There is a multi-player option, but it's only local. There will be no playing against random strangers on your DS. You need to have actual friends to pass the game to as prompted. That might work for kids, but if you're an adult I doubt anyone will care to play with you other than perhaps your child or other young relative. The multi-player aspect is nearly useless as a result.
While Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel doesn't do anything groundbreaking, it also contradicts claims that all movie-based games are downright horrible. It's not the best game out there, sure, but it's a surprisingly interesting title that should pleasantly waste an hour or two of your time if you have nothing else to do. If you have a little Alvin fan and a DS in your family or extended family, it wouldn't hurt to see if they like this.
Freelance review by Peter Lanzikos (February 14, 2010)
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