Review: M&Ms Adventure (Nintendo DS)

M&Ms Adventure
Developer: DSI Games
Publisher: Zoo Games
Genre: Action
Release Date: 12/3/2008

Most games featuring licensed characters end up traveling down a similar path – a cheap, rushed production aimed solely at advertising a product, resulting in horrible reviews and fairly crummy sales, but a decent chunk of change for the makers of the game. With M&Ms Adventure, we’re seeing a rarity in that the game isn’t based on a movie that’s being hawked, but a line of yummy candy treats. Does M&Ms Adventure break the mold, or is it just the latest in the endless string of licensed cash grabs?

1. Story/Modes
One thing you can always be sure of – if you’re playing a game like M&Ms Adventure, it’s going to have a totally ridiculous story. How else are you going to get all these wacky characters into a game-type setting? M&Ms Adventure more than succeeds in this area. Basically, the M&Ms are trying to finish up so they can go home for Christmas break when some machine breaks, scattering 120 M&Ms around the factory. Your job, obviously, is to recover the lost M&Ms, restore order to the world, and go home for Christmas dinner. Even more obvious is that this task is made more difficult thanks to the enemies you encounter along the way. The game is broken up into six different “sectors”, each with a different holiday theme. This actually makes sense because there are M&Ms for holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas. What doesn’t make sense, though, is that each of these sectors has a boss at the end. Because, you know, it’s completely plausible that the Easter Bunny would want to assault you, a humble M&M, just because you went into his sector.

The way M&Ms Adventure moves along is a bit annoying. You control a team of three M&Ms, each of whom has different strengths, and two of which have to be unlocked before they can be used. Rotating between the three M&Ms, you’ll end up playing through the same levels three different times, as there are certain doors that can only be accessed by certain M&Ms. These doors are where the missing M&Ms are hidden, and they’re usually near the ends of levels, so you’re stuck seeing the same things and making the same jumps three times. Given that these levels aren’t all that impressive the first time around, odds are good you’ll tire of the familiar surroundings fairly quickly.

There are no modes to speak of aside from plowing through the levels, which sounds about right. Getting the M&Ms to star in a video game with a semi-coherent plot was hard enough. What else could these candies possibly do?

0080206810173_av1_500x50012. Graphics
M&Ms Adventure is played entirely from a 3D perspective, which brings about one of the game’s biggest problems – the 3D interface doesn’t work well at all. The camera often requires manual adjustment (done with the L and R buttons), and it’s often hard to see where your player is in relation to the other platforms you’ll have to jump to. This is largely because the dual-screen capabilities of the DS are barely used. During gameplay, the top screen serves only to provide game information such as lives remaining, your score, and your life meter. The bottom screen is where all the action takes place, and even in a relatively simple game like M&Ms Adventure, that’s a lot of content to cram into one little screen. It’s no wonder it’s hard to tell where to go, if any obstacles are in your way, or any of the things you should know if you’re to enjoy a game. It also doesn’t help that there are different types of boxes you can open, including boxes that can harm your character, and you can’t even tell the boxes apart because the display is so limited. Needless to say, the character models aren’t exactly the most detailed, so much so that if you’re hit, you likely won’t even know what type of enemy hit you – if, that is, you can even see said enemy.

3. Sound
It’s hard to imagine what a game about M&Ms would sound like, but whatever your notion of what the sound in M&Ms Adventure might be, the end result is far worse. The background music is exactly that – barely audible bits and bleeps that do nothing to add to the game. Half the time, you’re wondering if there’s even music playing, while the rest of the time, you’re wondering who “composed” this God-awful soundtrack. It certainly doesn’t do much to encourage you to keep playing the game. As for sound effects, they might be even worse than the music. There are maybe three sound effects in the entire game, none of which actually resemble the sounds they’re supposed to. There are sounds for your characters’ jumps, the breaking of boxes, reaching save points, your character being hit… and that pretty much covers it. Clearly, more effort could have been put into the overall sound of this game. Not that the DS is an audio powerhouse or anything, but still.

4. Control/Gameplay
By now, you might be connecting all of the dots in this review. Quest for 120 M&Ms… 3D graphics… platform jumping… hey, this game sounds like a scaled-down, crappier version of Super Mario 64! And, of course, you wouldn’t be far off by thinking that, because that’s exactly how this game plays. Aside from the aforementioned camera angle issues, let’s throw in that only one of the M&Ms actually has an attack for his opponents. This means that to beat bosses, you have to do stupid things like hit a bunch of switches in the boss’s lair. So basically, all you end up doing is running around, capturing M&Ms, avoiding enemies, and finding roundabout ways to beat bosses. Oh, and just to further the Mario 64 ties a little bit, you can also collect coins throughout the game that add to your score, and you’ll NEVER guess what 100 coins gets you.

As far as DS functionality goes… there isn’t any, unless you count the ability to point your stylus at the main menu and select an option as relevant use of the DS touch screen. In-game, the touch screen is essentially useless. I understand why information such as your life bar couldn’t be crammed into a small screen, which is already way too small as is, but it seems a waste to have the touch screen relegated to nothingness while a giant M&Ms logo stares at you from the top. But then again, this game is supposed to serve as an advertisement for M&Ms, so I could be wrong here.

0080206810173_av3_500x5005. Replayability
Replayability is something that’s built into M&Ms Adventure – but not in a good way. Since you end up essentially playing through it three times to collect all the coins, you’ll probably never want to be left defenseless by a flying buzzing thing or chased by a giant chocolate ball again. Not that the first time through each level is anything to write home about, either. But M&Ms Adventure makes a habit out of shoving not-so-great experiences down your throat multiple times, which makes for a rather grating gameplay experience. Plus, the whole “search for 120 M&Ms” thing isn’t all that fun the first time around.

6. Balance
This is a good time to point out that M&Ms Adventure is intended for young gamers – tweeners are probably the oldest people that would ever purchase this game – so it’s not really fair to call the game out for being overly easy. It’s a simple game that wants you to win, so much so that it provides arrows to direct you where to go in each level. That said, it’s sort of annoyingly challenging, mainly because of the limitations of the medium and the software. It’s hard to jump from platform to platform when your camera angle is a mess and you can barely see the platform you’re shooting for. Plus, if you do manage to lose all your lives – something that’s easier said than done – you’ll have to start from the beginning of the sector, not even where you saved last. So the game does have its challenges and tough points, but overall the game is easy by design.

7. Originality
OK, this is a game with licensed characters and blatantly rips off Mario 64. How original is it? Well, actually, I’ve seen worse. I figured they’d go the safe route and make some kind of M&Ms puzzle game. Instead, M&Ms Adventure is a risk of sorts – it’s a game that isn’t what we’d all expect, and that by itself deserves a little bit of credit. That the game isn’t all that great shouldn’t take away from the fact that such a game was even conceived; after all, you don’t see Lays potato chips or the Geico cavemen running through video games too often.

8. Addictiveness
Any desire you may have to come back to M&Ms Adventure for repeated playings will dissipate shortly after you reboot the game and discover some flaws you might not have noticed the first time around. For example, the excessive load times for each level, which are in upwards of fifteen seconds EACH. Can you imagine? This would be unacceptable on PS1 or Sega CD, let alone the cartridge-based Nintendo DS. Also, as stated earlier, unless you REALLY want to nab all 120 M&Ms, there’s not much reason to keep running back to this game.

9. Appeal Factor
For little kids out there who love candy and are really into cartoons and like seeing the M&Ms do their thing on TV and on the Internet, this game provides a neat little immersion into the world of M&Ms. Kids will find it challenging enough to occupy their time, and they might even enjoy it. It might not do much for adults or jaded teenagers, but they’re not the intended targets for this game anyway. In other words, if you buy this game for your kids, don’t let them know it isn’t really that good.

10. Miscellaneous
M&Ms Adventure is bare-bones in just about every way, from the barely-visible graphics to the horrid sound to just about everything else. But what really is maddening is the lack of multiple game saves. This is an easy one that must have been some sort of oversight. Surely, the creators of games must know that kids share games and don’t like to be playing on each other’s saved games, never mind the fact that it’s pointless to go back to prior levels once you’ve already taken all the M&Ms. It’s just another example of how this game, starting out as a pretty cool idea of throwing M&Ms into an actual level-based game, ended up being yet another cheap licensed game. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but anyone who shells out $19.99 for this game deserves better than what they’ll get.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Dreadful
Graphics: Worthless
Sound: Worthless
Control/Gameplay: Dreadful
Replayability: Worthless
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Worthless
Final Score: Very Bad Game

Short Attention Span Summary
M&Ms Adventure is exactly what its name indicates – an adventure starring M&Ms. However, that’s where the fun ends, as the game itself plays like a second-rate knockoff of the many better 3D platformers out there. Kids might have some fun with M&Ms Adventure, but the vast majority of us won’t.



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