Review: Up (Sony PS3)

cover2Up
Developer: THQ
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 05/26/09

Movie and TV show tie-ins seem to be my thing to review lately. Between Terminator: Salvation and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Wheelie Breakers and the upcoming Transformers Revenge of the Fallen I’ve taken on quite a few of these recently. So far they’ve been ho-hum and could have used a bit more polish. Unfortunately Up does also fall into the ‘needing more polish’ category. Let’s see how it stacks up.

Story/Modes
Bear in mind, that I’m really basing this review entirely on the game as I have NOT seen the film at all. I’ve seen umpteen million trailers for it here there and everywhere, but I had not seen the film. Here’s what I can piece together as the story for this game.

An old man who’s fed up with life in the city, attaches balloons to his house to float it away to a place called Paradise Falls, only he wasn’t expecting a stowaway in the form a a neighborhood boy who’s the equivalent of a boy scout. For some reason (the game isn’t very clear on this at all) they get attacked by dozens of planes and a dog with a collar that lets him talk helps them out for some reason, blowing the enemy lanes out of the sky but not before the pair end up on the ground, towing the old man’s house around with makeshift cables as they slog through this jungle paradise to get his house where he wants it.

Honestly, the story could have been great in this game, but it relies way too heavily on having seen the film. There’s no cohesion until they’re on the ground and even then you’re not getting much out of the other cutscenes either. I honestly haven’t been this confused by a game since Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII.

Story/Modes Rating: Poor

01Graphics
While we’re not quite at the point in gaming consoles looking like a full blown Pixar film, this game tries and comes close. There are a few things that look off to me from seeing the previews and stills, but other than that it isn’t a bad looking game. Having said that, it’s not going to get game of the year for looking pretty either. I didn’t notice any graphics glitches and nothing funky going on with anything in this area. Pretty solidly done.

Graphics Rating: Enjoyable

Sound
Here we have a few issues. The sound isn’t all ways on par with what’s going on screen at the time. For example, say the kid has just pulled the old man up with a rope and you’ve already moved on to another section or area. The kid will spot something off about being able to help the old man up with his rope. The old man has some of those as well. It’s weird and could have been timed better to have gone off, say when you were actually pulling them up the rope or just before.

The ambient sounds aren’t too bad, but the music I’d have to say is barely memorable as I can’t think of any of it at all right now. Nice bonus for getting the actual voice actors from the film to do the game.

Sound Rating: Above Average

02Control and Gameplay
The controls for this game are relatively simple and respond well. There were few moments of frustration, more for my own inability to get things lined up right than the controls not doing what I wanted. Movement is done with the left analog stick, the face buttons control attacks and jumps and the directional buttons activate different special weapons and items like your hearing aid (scares off bugs, bats and other animals) and the water bottle (restores health).

Gameplay has some variation on it. The opening sequence has you flying a plane taking out other planes for example, and there are a few sequences where you have to maneuver around a water slide or something like it, but the bulk of it involves moving the old man and his stowaway around the jungle while they tow the house above them as you smash, move or climb over and around obstacles while you collect trinkets and smash or collect bugs to earn yourself more badges, which are what passes for trophies in this game. Of which there are many, and not all of them easy to get.

The Gameplay really reminds me a lot of LEGO Batman. You switch off (if you’re playing alone) between your two protagonists using their differing abilities to get through levels. It has that feel, even smashing things to get your collectibles. Someone actually told me when I’d picked up LEGO Batman just a few days before I received Up that up was similar but that Up had some deeper play. While I don’t think it is deeper, I do think it is slightly different, so that while I found them similar, there are some big differences. Like the AI staying put when you need it to and moving to grab the rope or cane when it’s appropriate. I was a bit surprised there.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

03Replayability
As you move through the game you unlock levels that you can go through and play again if you missed something. There are a few places in each level that veer off then come back to where you veered off to continue on, but some of them aren’t as obvious as others and you might need a second run through to find them as they do hide some of the artifacts and other things you’re collecting in those. Some areas you can’t get in until you’ve unlocked things later on, so you have to go back to get everything.

Plus you can always play through in co-op mode with a friend to give it a bit more variety. On top of that some of the badges require quite a bit of collecting, be it bugs or artifacts and other items and these can take a bit of time to unlock but aren’t necessary to complete the game. For OCD people though, it can be just as much fun trying to get all the trophies.

Replayability Rating: Good

Balance
While not as long as some other games out now, it is certainly longer than another movie tie-in I’ve reviewed. Add to that a nice set of trophies you can pick up and a reasonable price for a new game and in this area it’s fairly balanced. My big problem with this game though is that like LEGO Batman, it’s almost too easy to play. I had gone through 4 or 5 levels before I hit any kind of challenge, but after a quick dose from the water bottle and my health was fine and I was on my way again without much worry at all. A bit more of a challenge to this would have been nice.

Balance Rating: Decent

04Originality
Hit the brakes folks. You’re not going to see much originality from a game based on a movie with borrowed gameplay from another successful series. While the interactions between the two characters is varied, a bit more variation would have been nice rather than climb, help up, rinse repeat.

Originality Rating: Pretty Poor

Addictiveness
While I did have fun playing this game, it is way too easy, at least for the big kids. I got bored while playing as there wasn’t hardly any challenge to it at all. Which was kind of sad. Make a game with great controls that plays decent but make it insanely easy? Meh. If I were younger and not so cynical and just having gotten done playing far more interesting and challenging games I might have been more into it. That and the lack of any kind of cohesive story-telling really killed it for me.

Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre

05Appeal Factor
This game is definitely geared more towards a younger audience. The ease of play, the price, and lots of collectibles will have kids playing for awhile. I mean it’s only 40 bucks which for a brand new PS3 title is a steal. If you have seen the film this would be more up your alley as again I had no idea what was going on as I had not seen it.

If you’re in the market for a challenging title with some platforming in it you really want to look elsewhere.

Appeal Factor Rating: Decent

Miscellaneous
This game could have used some more polish. It’s a shame the game plays so smoothly as the sound sync-ups are really annoying and a total lack of story-telling within the game doesn’t really engage you at all. So really we’re left with yet another movie tie-in game that doesn’t live up to any potential it could have had.

Am I surprised? Nope. And you shouldn’t be either.

Miscellaneous Rating: Below Average

The Scores
Story: Poor
Graphics: Enjoyable
Sound: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Good
Balance: Decent
Originality: Pretty Poor
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Below Average
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Gaming Rexes are sad! Another movie tie-in game, this one is decidedly aimed at a younger audience given the movie material, but there is fun to be had with all ages on this one. While not as refined as it could be, it is a decent price at $40, and you do get a decent amount of content for it, just not as much as you’d expect from another game not tied to a film. The controls in this version are pretty solid, and even though the game is fairly easy and somewhat repetitive, if you’re looking to scratch that movie game itch, you could do far, far worse.

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