As I write this review, I have to ask a question: What is the point? Sure, I could trash this game, point out all of its faults, but what well would that do? Everyone who intends to purchase this game for their kids (or themselves) has already made up their minds about their purchasing decision. That's the beauty of the licensed property for a game developer. As long as the property in question is popular enough, you can be completely creatively bankrupt and cut as many corners in game design as you like, and still be assured bucket loads of money. However, occasionally a licensed game will rise above lazy game design and actually provide a great gaming experience.
Unfortunately, Shrek the Third is not that game; not by a long shot. StT is as weak as licensed kiddie games get. It's a boring, shallow experience that features none of the whimsy and hilarity of the films. Sure, the game features some rather impressively voiced sound-a-likes and a handful of situations from the movie, but it doesn't amount to anything resembling a rich gaming experience.
StT plays kind of like God of War on valium. You begin the game as Shrek, and right away you are placed in a small room surrounded by guys you have to beat up while Donkey gives you "helpful" advice. Once your enemies are defeated they usually drop coins and blue orbs which give you special powers. Collect enough blue orbs to fill your meter, and you can perform various devastating attacks on your enemies.
Throughout the course of this very short five hour adventure, you play as other characters such as Puss in Boots and Fiona, but the gameplay never evolves beyond the basic template set forth by that first room. Run forward, beat a few people to a pulp, collect coins, and move on. Combat has nearly zero depth to it. There are strong and weak attacks, and occasionally you're given the opportunity to commit a finishing move on your opponent. Most of the finishers are pretty lame and are only worth doing to get achievement points in the 360 version. Forget about any sort of varied combos, as mashing the weak attack button over and over is usually enough to get you out of any sort of jam.
The closest the game comes to breaking the monotony of pushing two buttons to beat everyone up and breaking stuff is by instituting a variety of mind-numbing jumping puzzles. The jumping puzzles in this game are extremely frustrating for two reasons. One, your character's motion always feels slippery and imprecise, meaning that making any sort of precision movement is an exercise in futility.
The other reason is the game's absolutely terrible camera. You're never given any sort of control whatsoever on the camera, and it always seems positioned in the worst possible place to judge distances and angles for your jump. Furthermore, the camera constantly positions itself so that large pillars, crates, or simply awkward angles obscure your view. Not only does this effectively ruin all the jumping puzzles in the game, but it also results in a lot of cheap hits from off-screen enemies. Make no mistake, if this camera system had the chance, it would kill you and everyone you care about.
The game also demands that you smash every single crate, box, and statue that you come across in order to collect a myriad of various trinkets and coins. Oh, the collecting... Now, my memory of the movie might be a little fuzzy, but I don't seem to recall Shrek being a money-grubbing Scrooge. Then again, I don't remember him running around indiscriminately laying the beat down on every single person he came across either.
Collecting the various trinkets allows you to unlock a large collection of goodies, but none are all that interesting. After collecting 12,500 coins, you can unlock easy mode. EASY MODE! By the time you've collected that many coins, you'll already have gotten through half the game on the normal difficulty. You can also unlock new costumes, extremely lame multiplayer games, and commentary tracks for certain levels. The commentary is a neat idea, but they get the two most annoying voices (Gingerbread Man and Pinocchio) to do the voice over. Not only that, but usually the commentary will end before you've even cleared the first room in the level. The saying goes: "a penny for your thoughts"; not two levels worth of swag!
If a game is funny, then it can at least make mediocre gameplay tolerable, but that's not the case here either. While the movies have stayed funny even if the law of diminishing returns applies heavily to the franchise, StT's sense of humor is completely still-born. The admittedly well done sound-a-likes do all they can with a script that sounds like it was written by a six year old on a sugar rush. Playing through this game is akin to having an over-zealous friend ruin the plot of the movie while screwing up all the jokes.
That's not to say there isn't a lot of unintentional hilarity to be found at the expense of the AI. Some of the actions that these idiots make are simply mind boggling. Try taking a single step into a room as an example. As you stand at the entrance, the enemies will blindly charge at you, but wait, they're stuck on invisible walls and environmental items! At this point, you can simply walk up to them and pound them around the kidney area until they go down. Enemies will always stop what they're doing and stand around dumbstruck whenever your character makes an action such as opening a chest, flipping a switch, or performing a finishing move. The best example, however, came when I cast a spell on a Dwarf and a Cyclops that's supposed to cause your enemies to attack each other instead of you. Since the Cyclops was caught on a piece of the environment, he simply stood there as the dwarf charged him and proceeded to kick him repeatedly in the balls for over a minute. Now that's entertainment!
Multiplayer is a throwaway feature that was likely included simply to have another bullet point on the back of the case. All the games are simple, sterile diversions that have less depth than Mario Party mini-games. There are only five game types, the best (and I use the term loosely) of which has you and a friend catapulting rocks at each other's towers. It vaguely plays like a 3D version of worms with no turns, weapons, depth, or fun. I guarantee that your friends will never come over again if you try to play this game with them.
The differences between the three versions are rather minimal. As you'd expect, the Xbox 360 version has higher resolution textures and models, better frame rate, and achievements on its side. The Wii and PlayStation 2 versions have frame rates that border on nigh unplayable, and even the 360 will chop and stutter from time to time, usually when you're trying to time a precise jump. All versions of the game have the exact same cut-scenes and animation templates. Also, in every version of the game, there's a weird effect with the character's faces that I can only describe as "dead-eye". None of the characters in any version give off a semblance of emotion. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition, as the bored and emotionless faces seem to reflect the bored and emotionless attitude that went into the game.
As for controls, I can say I'm already getting bored with substituting button presses on one console for arm waving on another. Yes, the Wii version allows for swipes of the arm instead of button pushes, but it's pretty irrelevant as a wave of the Wii-mote does the exact same thing as a push of the Square or X button on another system. As Shrek you can wind up your fist but spinning the nun-chuck, but there's a weird delay in the Wii version that means lots of cheap hits for you. I preferred the streamlined controls of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 versions.
You may be saying, well, it's just a kid's game, why are you being so hard on it? I'll tell you why. It's because Shrek the Third is an abomination to gaming, and signifies many things that are wrong with our beloved industry. It's lazy, cut-every-corner game design and glitchy gameplay are completely unacceptable in this day and age. Not only that, but as much as parents may complain about M-rated games like GTA and its ilk, Shrek the Third teaches kids some bad lessons. Sleeping Beauty's levels for example allow you to flirt with prison guards so they'll let you out. So, you're telling me that having a pretty face will get you out of any jam you may be in? Furthermore, the game supports the theory that violence solves everything, as 80% of the game constitutes pounding on every single person and creature you come across. Well, violence doesn't solve everything in the game, sometimes you have to push crates around. I suppose that qualifies as non-violent?
This game is assured a big money haul based on its brand recognition alone. However, after reading this review, hopefully you aren't going to get duped like countless others. Stay "Far Far Away" from this one.