Games based on movies always suffer from an additional amount of scrutiny. Nobody wants to see their cherished film tarnished in a bad game adaptation. Unfortunately, the genre has had more misses than hits. For every success that manages to truly capture the essence of its source material and make it into an enjoyable game (GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64), there has also been an endless line of failures that have ranged from mediocre to downright embarrassing. Sorry to say, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa for the PlayStation 3 finds itself at the lower end of the spectrum. Developed by Toys for Bob and published by Activision, the game suffers from bland gameplay that ultimately can't save it from becoming yet another unremarkable game based on a movie. But, despite some of its problems that may be unforgivable to adults, children 8 and under might find it enjoyable.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa picks up where the first Madagascar left off. The foursome of Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo are about to board a plane taking them back to New York. But as luck would have it, the plane ends up crash landing in Africa and our four heroes have to go out into the wild to find help.
The game is a platformer punctuated by minigames. As Alex, you work your way to the end of a stage while getting constantly sidetracked into minigames with other characters. While it might sound frustrating to have the flow of gameplay constantly interrupted, it actually works fairly well since after every minigame, there's usually a cutscene to advance the storyline. The platforming aspect of the game is pretty basic with little innovation. Each character has their unique skill set but it's mostly about jumps and attacks. More often than not, Alex is the character of choice during platforming. He can jump, roar, and throw mangoes. After a few minutes of playing, you'll get the idea of all the game has to offer from a platforming standpoint.
There were a few bugs experienced during gameplay such as a stuttering camera and a floating Alex. If you jump and manage to slightly miss the edge of a platform with Alex, you can watch him hover aimlessly with no direction or purpose until you move him and he falls to the ground. At one point, he got stuck in a crevice and the game had to be rebooted.
Certain stages of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa act as a hub that branches off into different stages with different characters. It allows you to go and find the level that interests you, which is a great feature except there's very little guidance showing you where to go. It was difficult to properly direct the character to the right part of the hub to unlock certain levels and kids will probably experience a similar level of frustration. While it is a good idea in theory, a little more finesse would've gone a long way.
The variety of minigames offered is both good and bad. Games like Hot Durian! (Potato) and Musical Chairs require little skill or attention to complete. For example, in Musical Chairs, since you're so much faster than the other players, as long as you mash a button assigned to a chair, you'll get it. If you're behind an opponent, you'll actually run past them and get the chair. On the other hand, the Diving Event is a good deal of fun. You get to play a Hippo and jump off a diving board to perform flips and spins which are then graded like a real diving event. Dodgeball and Mini-Golf are also standouts mostly because they provide an element of challenge. Many of these minigames are accessible through the Africa Arcade option on the Main Screen where you can set up a Multiplayer tournament and play against your friends.
The visuals of the game are its best feature. Colors are vibrant and the characters are well rendered looking very much like their on-screen brethren. However, cutscenes could've been improved with some extra work. Stiff facial expressions and exaggerated body movements plague the characters of the game resulting in wooden animations. Since there are quite a few cutscenes in the game, it becomes a bit of a chore to sit through them after a while but you have the option of skipping them if you choose to do so.
Music and sound design are unremarkable. The music is used solely to reinforce the setting of Africa and is largely indistinguishable from level to level. Sound design is completely functional and gameplay focused. There isn't much to be heard other than what's happening on the screen.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa for the PS3 is a disappointment and does nothing to improve the reputation of games based on movies. There's really no reason to play this game again once you're finished with it. But, while adult gamers might find the game shallow and uninvolving, kids 8 and under should be fine with it. The simple gameplay and colorful characters should keep young tots entertained for a few of hours. So if you have young children who are die-hard Madagascar fans, give this game a chance. If you don't, you're better off skipping it.