It should come as no surprise that the many films of Tim Burton are an acquired taste and generally cater to a niche audience. There is a certain visual style about them, as well as a recurring theme, that makes them instantly recognizable to anyone. Over the years, Burton has also amassed a group of people that he seems to continuously work with and who have helped establish the Burton Brand; namely actor Johnny Depp and composer Danny Elfman. Tim Burton's vision has also been associated with many works that he hasn't actually directed but which he has helped produce and/or written, The Nightmare Before Christmas being one of them. Henry Selick may have actually directed the stop-animation classic but the visuals are so striking (in a Burtonesque fashion) that's it's impossible not to associate them instantly with Beetle Juice or Edward Scissorhands. This is the impact of Burton's vision and this is why so many fans repeatedly fill theaters to sample his works. Of the most enduring, The Nightmare Before Christmas figures prominently as one of the most popular titles, but as with any of Burton's works, you either love it or hate it. This videogame, a sequel of sorts to the movie, plays very much in that fashion as well. Younger children will instantly be drawn to it due to its colorful appeal and musical stylings, but among teens and adults, your appreciation and love for the film will be exponentially representative of your love and appreciation for Oogie's Revenge.
The story begins shortly after the events from The Nightmare Before Christmas as Jack Skellington, the "holiday leader" of Holloween Town and resident Pumpkin King, is again disappointed by the same-oldness of Halloween. In the hopes of lifting his spirits, Dr. Finkelstein hands Jack a Soul Robber (a green goo-like armband that stretches and whips around grabbing things) with which he can improve Halloween. Happy with his new device, Jack sets out to find new ways to make Halloween new and exciting for the next year. During his absence however, Lock, Shock and Barrel find a way to stitch Jack's nemesis Oogie Boogie back together again. Bad things ensue and upon Jack's return, the citizens of Pumpkin Town are too frightened to leave their homes and traps have been set everywhere. Jack will again have to save the day with the help of The Mayor, Zero, Sally and all the established characters that we've come to know so far.
The basic premise of the game is to control Jack as he tries to figure out what has happened to Pumpkin Town and then set things right. To accomplish this, Jack will have to fight a lot of monsters, look for some secrets, do menial tasks for several residents and kick Oogie's butt once and for all. For the most part, controlling Jack is easy and fun, but oftentimes repetitive. You'll control Jack's movements with the left analog stick, which works quite well, but Jack also has this annoying habit of sliding/stopping every time his direction changes. This is easy to get used to, but is really annoying none-the-less. The rest of the controls are well implemented and controlling the Soul Robber is not only a breeze, but fun as well. The main application of the Soul Robber is to whip enemies until their life bar (which can be toggled on or off) diminishes and changes color until the monster is dispatched. Other applications include taunting, grabbing and slamming enemies around, creating a protective circle around Jack and also using the Soul Robber as a grapple to attain hidden areas. The Soul Robber can also be charged up for extra powerful attacks and upgraded at the Witches' Shop after it has been discovered in the game.
The combat in Oogie's Revenge is never too taxing or challenging, but novel enough to keep you interested throughout the entire adventure. Each type of enemy has his own type of attack and motion and there are many choices available to dispatch each. The game also features a combo system and you'll find yourself constantly wanting to beat your own best combo records as the game progresses.
Jack's arsenal also includes various costumes, like the Santa and Pumpkin King suits, which net Jack a few extra abilities that are a fun distraction. Pumpkin King Jack can spit out flames and fire bombs while Santa Jack will hand out "special" gifts which will stun, surprise, or damage enemies in various ways. Beating the game and fulfilling other conditions will also unlock other costumes for Jack which will greatly please fans of the Pumpkin King.
The single greatest fault to Oogie's Revenge is its camera. It has become almost mandatory for games to allow camera control with the right thumbstick and you will try from time to time to accomplish this. The game, unfortunately, does not allow for manual movement of the camera and sometimes chooses very odd angles to present the action with. While none of these are detrimental, they make playing through Jack's adventure a lot harder than it really had to be and slightly more frustrating when searching for something specific.
If completing an entire adventure using the Soul Robber exclusively seems a tad boring (which it's not), Oogie's Revenge also features Dance Battles. During Boss Fights, when enemies are hit, they drop musical Soul Notes which you can collect to fill your Dance Gauge. Once this meter has been filled, Jack enters Dance Mode which plays out a lot like a Dance Dance Revolution game where you will have to hit specific buttons at specific times. Performing well will generally make any Boss encounter easy to complete and the songs that are played during Dance Mode will bring a smile to the lips of any of the movie's fans.
Oogie's Revenge is divided into several small chapters which generally have one main purpose. When a chapter has been completed, a series of rankings appear and your performance (time, highest combo, etc) will be ranked and awarded a letter. You are also told what certain rankings would have unlocked and are therefore, more apt to replay past chapters (easily done) to improve your performance. The game also features a nifty tutorial which gently eases you into the game and a loy of things to collect, upgrade and buy. Fans will also appreciate the small bios for each of the characters as well as the unlockable songs, movies, figures, etc. Fans of the film will be in heaven.
Graphically, Oogie's Revenge is a mixed bag of sorts. The game definitely follows the look and feels of the film in its style and architecture, but the film possessed a more striking look due to its stop-animated use of clay. The game's colors sometimes appear washed out and the textures are not always as intricate as the film's. Make no mistake about it though, the "feel" of the film is perfectly preserved and fans will recognize many small details throughout.
The strongest (and greatest) part of Oogie's Revenge, as expected, is its audio presentation. Again, fans of the film will appreciate this more than anyone else as all the original songs from the film have been rewritten and retooled for Oogie's Revenge and hearing new renditions of them is truly a highlight. Also, many of the original character voices, including Chris Sarandon as Jack and Ken Page as Oogie, reprise their roles and add a deep amount of credibility to the audio portion. While many little saying are repeated throughout (like when Jack uses certain attacks), this is something that every game under the sun is guilty of and besides, they don't seem to be particularly grating in this case anyway.
In the end, Oogie's Revenge is a good title that will leave many divided. Fans of the film, its songs and its characters, will appreciate a sequel to the events of The Nightmare Before Christmas, as well as a chance to play as Jack (and also explore Halloween Town and speak to its citizens). Anyone who didn't enjoy the film, due to its overly repetitive songs (What's This? What's This?, etc) will be as irritated with Oogie's Revenge as they were with the movie itself. Fans will appreciate the hunt for hidden items, unlockables and all the other little touches that have gone into the game and will play levels over and over to beat their scores. Others will find the entire proceedings tedious, ridiculous and boring. But make no mistake about it, Oogie's Revenge is a fun title that is easy to get into, play for a while and take enjoyment from. Hopefully, we'll see another movie in the near future, or at least another game sequel.