Wii – Tangled Review
Having watched Disney’s Tangled every single night for the last three weeks with my 21 month old son I did what every sane parent would by going out to my local gaming store and purchasing the movie tie-in videogame. I mean, spending two hours with the movie wasn’t enough time with Rapunzel and Flynn so I needed even more! Okay, that might be exaggerating just a tad but suffice it to say Disney’s Tangled for the Wii ends up being an above average video game based on a movie license and although it will satisfy many there are times that the game mechanics seem beyond the range of its target audience.
If you are a parent and loath buying video games for children because of too much violence and gore do not fret as Tangled is incredibly kid friendly with only a minimal amount of questionable material which revolves mainly around Rapunzel knocking Palace Guards on their noggins with her trusty frying pan. Flynn utilizes a sword to do the same deed but realism thankfully goes out the window as the guards are magically just knocked unconscious. Besides this the game is devoid of any form of violence unless you count breaking barrels and crates in that category.
Tangled is mainly a 3D platformer that is played on a 2D plane meaning you can only move left and right (although there are a few occasions which allow 3D movement where players gain direct control of Rapunzel and Flynn as they traverse many landmarks from the film. It follows in the general direction of the movie’s plot but it definitely embellishes events in order to satisfy the more action-oriented video game medium. Therefore, it adds a bunch of mini games such as goat and horse racing or one where Rapunzel has to pull huge barrels off a shelf with her hair while Flynn cracks them open when they land on the floor.
Actually, Tangled makes good use of the typical co-operative game mechanic you find in the Lego series of games where certain puzzles or obstacles need to be solved using both characters. Single players can easily switch control between Rapunzel and Flynn with a flick of a button while two players can work together controlling either one. This fact alone should make parents gleeful as the game can keep multiple children occupied while they do something more productive like washing dishes, doing the laundry or entering Alterac Valley to kill the Horde in World of Warcraft.
The game features two different modes of control the first utilizing the customary Wii Remote plus Nunchuk configuration with the Wii Remote buttons being used for jumping and attack while the Nunchuck handles movement. The other mode gets rid of the Nunchuk and maps all the controls to a single Wii Remote with the control pad taking over navigation duties. I would certainly recommend the Wii Remote + Nunchuk combination as it is infinitely easier to move Rapunzel and Flynn using the control stick on the Nunchuk rather than the puny D-pad on the Wii Remote.
Controlling the characters with the Nunchuk felt smooth and natural although there were a few instances where my hand motions didn’t register although part of this surely is my general lack of skill using the Wii Remote (I spend 95%+ of my time handling the Xbox 360 or PS3 controller). There were also times when I would inadvertently set off Flynn’s ground attack motion even though I did not intend to.
That said some of the game’s puzzles actually do require a sizable degree of critical thinking which comes as a pleasant surprise as initially I thought the game would be nothing more than a rote platformer. As an example, there are points in the game where it appears that only one character can move forward so players need to figure out which one to take first and then find key locations where they can utilize their skills like letting down Rapunzel’s hair so that Flynn can climb it in order to allow the other character to rejoin them.
Both characters thus have their own special abilities with Rapunzel making good use of her magical hair to twirl around growing flowers or mimicking Spiderman by swinging over large crevices. On the other hand, Flynn doesn’t have superhuman abilities so he’s left with swinging his sword to clear paths through thick vegetation or climbing certain vines. Why Rapunzel can’t wield a sword or climb up vines is open for debate but it is understandable since there needs to be differentiation between them.
The developer, Planet Moon Studios, also built a series of collectibles into the game in order to add some needed replayability in the form of coins for Flynn and magical sundrops for Rapunzel that are littered around the world. Additionally, both characters get secondary items to collect in this case Flynn can dig up hidden treasure chests which are scattered in each level and must be found by discovering areas in which a giant question mark appears above his head. On the other hand, Rapunzel needs to be on the lookup for certain flower patches where she needs to use her magical twirl ability to reveal hidden journal entries that come in the form of sketches of items or places she finds during her journey. Finally, there are also numerous painting palettes that need to be found in order to unlock different coloured paint which can be used humourlessly to doodle on Flynn’s wanted posters or more importantly to meet certain quest requirements.
At the end of every successful stage the game presents a page of statistics showing things like how many sundrops, coins or palettes and chests were found. Unfortunately, these are merely for bragging rights as they don’t unlock any cool bonus features.
However, the game does suffer from some unfortunate pacing issues with the first two levels in particular taking far longer to complete than the following ones giving the impression that the game was coded in sequence and that the developers had to rush to complete it on time. In particular, the second level which takes place at the Snuggly Duckling Tavern stands out like a sore thumb since it tasks the player to complete a series of differing quests by first talking to assorted characters and then trudging through the inn or nearby environment to discover the solution. That doesn’t mean it is particularly hard since the game clearly marks who to speak to next or where to go with a bouncing golden arrow.
You could say that the tavern acts as a sort of mini-hub in which Rapunzel and Flynn must eventually return to in order to complete quests and get new ones. The amount of dialogue and reading comprehension is much higher in this level which is one point of contention I have since many younger players will feel completely lost since they cannot comprehend what to do next.
The game is actually very easy to complete especially for older kids or adults which will blow through it in no time flat. I finished the game in two play sessions with a combined time of roughly four hours which is incredibly brief a fact helped by the inclusion of a no death penalty. No matter how bad your dexterity is there is just no possible way for either of the main characters to actually die as a bad jump into a lake will merely result in the character respawning nearby. Obviously, this is a kid’s game so no one is allowed to keel over yet there isn’t any downside when tasks clearly fail. As an example, many of the minigames rate the player on how fast they are completed or how many goals are met yet a player could totally take ten times the amount of time stated to finish while missing all the goals and still have the game grant them permission to proceed to the next area.
Enemy AI is of the most basic variety especially the Palace Guards who lumber around and telegraph whenever they are going to swing a sword. It is a very rare occurrence if they ever hit either main character although the only penalty here is a loss of coins for Flynn or magical sundrops for Rapunzel.
This kind of mentality really is front and center during the few racing segments where Rapunzel and Flynn ride goats or horses through a linear path that is filled with coins and sundrops as well as obstacles like walls or bales of hay. However, the player can basically set the Wii Remote down and allow both characters to automatically run forward without any interaction crashing into anything that comes their way since the game will still allow the player to complete the level and proceed. I can understand the need to not frustrate younger children but this destroys whatever sense of accomplishment can be obtained from playing well.
Tangled does feature some very nice texture work for a Wii title that more or less fits with the film’s design aesthetic. In particular Flynn and Rapunzel resemble their movie counterparts although the game’s animators might have gone a bit too far since Rapunzel doesn’t merely run but skips along cheerfully in an over-exaggerated trot that does nothing but draw attention to itself. Generally, the game’s environments are as rock solid as the Wii can handle although there are certainly instances where Rapunzel’s long hair clips through objects such as walls or other people. Since the game also is played on a 2D plane this enables the camera to remain locked onto them and avoids many pitfalls that true 3D gaming brings to the table. However, the loading times could certainly be a bit more optimized as the game seems to load a lot even if it is changing to a much smaller area like walking from the main hallway of the Snuggly Duckling to a side room.
It also helps immensely that both Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi reprise their roles of Rapunzel and Flynn although Levi vacillates between a wide range of sounding actively engaged and utter boredom. Moore fairs much better although the new dialogue isn’t exactly Shakespearean in quality.
One particular aspect that I found a nice touch was the inclusion of 2D animated paintings that appear between levels that detail the key points of the narrative which really invoke the fairy tale atmosphere. It also harkens nicely to the filmmakers who initially wanted Tangled the movie to open with 2D artwork read from a book as the styles seem similar. The game even manages to make this inclusion into a hilarious instrument later in the game when Flynn takes over the drawing from Rapunzel and the quality takes a nosedive into bad doodles and misshapen characters.
Not fairing so well though is the instrumental soundtrack which really sounds muted and inappropriately orchestrated as there were times that I really felt it was sleep inducing. Additionally, it rarely if ever matched the unfolding narrative in rising to accommodate rousing moments and came across as incredibly lazy. I would just recommend blasting Alan Menken’s movie score instead.
The game ships with the option to create four different profiles/saved games as well as a small Tangled poster that is sure to put a smile on young kids. The game actually does support up to four players but for the sake of this review I only finished it in single player so I cannot give opinion on how four player mode would work.
In the end, despite a few minor quibbles Tangled the Wii game is a short though enjoyable sojourn that takes players through many of the film’s locations while adding a few extra elements that will keep children entertained. Adults or more mature gamers might be turned off by the total lack of difficulty and the fact that since this is the Wii there are obviously no achievements or trophies in which to unlock. Still, if your goal is to keep kids occupied Tangled for Wii is one of those rare occasions where a movie licensed video game ends up being above average. That might not sound like a ringing endorsement but if your kids stay glued to the TV playing the game then it more than serves its primary purpose.
**1/2 out of ****
Developer: Disney Interactive / Planet Moon Studios
Released US: 11/23/2010
© 2011 The Galactic Pillow