Kid friendly movie tie-ins are big business and there was no chance that the big CGI movie of the summer wouldn't be accompanied by a videogame. Madagascar tells the story of some larger than life Zoo animals and Activision has brought the movie experience to our consoles and PC, with most of the movie's charm and fun very much intact.
The game sits firmly in the camp of 'games for kids', but thankfully this is a kids game that doesn't assume a license is all that's needed. Despite being a fairly simple game that can be completed in next to no time, the game lets you control all the major characters from the movie and can even be enjoyed if you haven't seen the movie.
Throughout the game you'll get to play as five different characters: Marty the Zebra is a loud mouthed guy who isn't happy with his life in a Zoo, so decides it's time to break out and find a better life; Alex the lion loves himself, but is in fact a rather tame "King of the Jungle" that must get into character every time he performs; Melman is a giraffe who is obsessed with hygiene and the general cleanliness of himself and his surroundings; Gloria is the rather large lady hippo who has a taste for chilies; and then there are the penguins who think they are some crack special-ops unit.
'The basic platforming gameplay is mixed with some basic combat, some stealth and a fair bit of collecting'
Each of these characters (you only play as a single penguin) has their own special moves that you gain by collecting cards that are scattered around the levels. They aren't hard to pick up, but give you something extra to do. The basic platforming gameplay is mixed with some basic combat, some stealth and a fair bit of collecting. You'll even get to play a few simple arcade games and buy new mini-games from the zoo's shop.
The characters all have a fair bit of voice work, but unfortunately this isn't done by the movie's big name actors. If you haven't seen the movie you won't notice this and even if you have, the actors do a good job of impersonating the voices and brining the characters to life. There's also a surprising lack of movie clips in the game. Most movie tie-ins pack the game full of FMV, but most of Madagascar's cutscenes are done in-engine, which helps the game tell the story so it fits more seamlessly into the game, but doesn't look as nice as the movie segments would have.
The visuals are pretty basic, but are more than adequate for the game's target audience. The main characters are all easily recognizable, but some of the frequently used enemies are a bit basic. Environments aren't up to the standard of the characters, with a fair few repeated textures and bland looking environments, but you move to new levels fairly frequently to keep things fresh. The camera is the only really awful part of the game, often not re-aligning itself fast enough. The manual camera controls are also rather slow, but seeing as most kids won't be thinking about the camera controls, this is something that can be accepted.
Some kids games like to extend their lifespan by using harsh checkpoints and awkward controls, but Madagascar uses neither. Checkpoints are nicely arranged and the controls are rarely cumbersome. With the solid and fun adventure and the mini-games that can be unlocked, Madagascar should please most kids who want a simple game featuring the characters they have seen at the cinema. Very few seasoned gamers will get much out of it, but that isn't really the point of the game.