Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-08-18 PS2 Platform E10 (Everyone 10+) thq

I think it's pretty safe to assume that all of us have heard of the harsh reputation associated with movie-based video games and that, for the most part, that reputation has definitely been earned. Most movie based games seem to be rushed through production in order to be out by the movie's theatrical release, and because of this rush, are often filled with broken, tired gameplay that offers very little in the way of entertainment.

Now, that's not to say that every movie game has been terrible, as there have been a few gems scattered throughout the rubble, like The Chronicles of Riddick or Monster House DS as examples. When I sat down to play Wall-E on the PS2, I was very happy to find that it fits into this group of exceptions.

Based on the Pixar/Disney film of the same name, Wall-E follows a friendly "Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class" robot (or Wall-E bot for short) through his journey on earth and in space, as he seeks to end the loneliness that plagues his existence.

While that much of the story is pretty clear from playing the game itself, it's unfortunate that more of the back-story wasn't presented in the game. Having seen the film only after playing the game, I was quick to realize that the game essentially assumes that everyone who is playing it has seen the film.

However, this isn't to say that the game is unplayable without seeing the movie, far from it actually. It's just to say that you'll be left with some questions throughout gameplay that can only be answered by watching the film, or by reading the next paragraph.

To put the story into a proverbial nutshell, Wall-E is the sole surviving robot from man's time on Earth. After heavy pollution, humans were forced to abandon Earth and live in space, leaving Wall-E bots behind to clean up the mess, in the hopes that one day Earth would once again support life. Over a span of hundreds of years, the Wall-E bots break down, leaving our hero alone and very lonely, until the humans decide to check on Earth's status by sending in Eve, an Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator robot. From there, the story turns into one of romance and adventure, as Wall-E follows Eve to outer space and must confront many technologically advanced robots that want to stop Wall-E in his quest.

What the game version of Wall-E doesn't tell players in terms of story it definitely makes up for in gameplay. Primarily a platformer, the game offers 27 different levels, containing all of the standard elements of the genre like crate bashing and item collection, but also contains elements from many other genres as well.

For instance, there are multiple levels that take on an over-the-shoulder camera angle reminiscent to games like Resident Evil 4, allowing for intense shooting action between Wall-E and various robots from outer space. The game also offers time challenge levels that require Wall-E or Eve to get to a certain location while being chased or threatened by something surrounding them.

Furthermore, some levels of the game involve a skateboarding type movement that moves Wall-E from one side of pipes or ravines to the other, while other levels involve stealth, various puzzles to open locks, and even escort mission elements. Needless to say, the variety here is a huge plus.

No matter what the theme, character movement (when playing as either Wall-E or Eve) is achieved with the left analog stick, while the shoulder, X, circle, triangle, and square buttons perform various actions like jumping, shooting lasers and even shape transformation when Wall-E needs to make his way through small holes found throughout the world.

Not only does Wall-E run into many enemies in his time on earth and in space, but he also finds a few friends along the way, like helper robots that can help break obstacles blocking certain paths, light dark passageways, or even provide an extra boost to reach tall ledges.

Throughout the game, levels are separated by adorable cutscenes that show the major story elements from the movie. These cutscenes are unlocked once initially viewed, allowing players to go back and watch them again and again, if they so choose. Other unlockables come in the form of concept art, cheat codes, bonus mini-games (like the time challenge levels I mentioned earlier) and so on.

These bonus materials are unlocked using points that are collected throughout the story mode, with points being awarded for not only completing a stage, but for breaking all of the crates, and for finding all of the special items, like umbrellas, fly-swatters, and binoculars in each level. Think of Wall-E as a hoarder much like Ariel from the Little Mermaid, in terms of fascination with man-made items, and you'll get the idea.

Since the game was based on a movie by the geniuses at Pixar, of course the graphics are in line with some of the cutest things I've ever seen. There is very little dialogue in the game; instead, Wall-E's facial expressions tell the tale, and while blocky robots may not seem very cute on paper, I know that I have never said "awww" so many times while playing a game before. It is very easy to become attached to the characters throughout the game, especially when the playing world is filled with depressing images such as broken down sky-scrapers, vehicles, and other items from Earth's once glorious past.

The look of the game itself comes in two themes: the first is filled with different shades of brown, tan, and black that covers the desert like atmosphere of earth, while the second theme is completely opposite and is filled with clean, crisp whites and silvers surrounding the spaceship that the humans now call their home. While clipping is a small issue in all areas of the game, causing Wall-E's wheels to sometimes look as though they are penetrating walls and doorways, these are merely visual annoyances, as movement itself isn't actually affected.

What does affect movement however, is the unfortunate issue with most jumping in the game. Since Wall-E's wheelbase is fairly large, it is often hard to tell just how close you are to the edge of a board when you are about to jump over a gap. That is, even the slightest error when pressing the jump button often sends Wall-E over the edge to his doom. This unfortunate fact, along with the overall challenge posed by enemies makes me wonder just how many children could actually play the game without difficulty.

But in keeping with the more technical aspects of the game, the sound department is right in line with the quality found in most Pixar titles, and contains songs from the movie itself, along with addictive elevator-type music that plays throughout each level. Each song does a great job of setting the mood of the level, with pieces ranging from slow and calming to fast and intense, depending on the situation.

In the end, with slight graphical and movement issues, Wall-E for the PS2 may not be on par with the best platforming titles ever created, but in terms of movie-based games, Wall-E does provide for over 10 hours of entertaining gameplay and is definitely worth at least a rental.

Special thanks to Karen Fujimoto and THQ for providing a copy of this title.