Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
Posted 3 years ago By - Zach R.
There’s something to be said for being straightforward. Most titles nowadays lack that trait. Throw in a movie-license, and you can often get a convoluted attempt to add more to the story with embarrassingly poor results. Thankfully, Ubisoft’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, based on the Sony Pictures Animation hit, is one of those games that’s as straight to the point as you can get. Does the approach work here? Let’s see.
When you’re developing a game that appeals to kids, it’s often easy to forget that kids aren’t likely to be the only ones playing the game. Design choice is everything, and Ubisoft’s overall presentation here is a nice fit for both the young crowd as well as the older ones. What’s interesting here is that Ubi chose not to clutter the game with lame cutscenes. Instead the story is set up via a short 8-bit videogame screen narrated by the games hero, Flint Lockwood. Having seen every manner of games aimed at kids, I’ve seen a lot of unnecessary additions to titles that really should have been re-thought. Cloudy is not one of them, and the change of pace is refreshing.
If you haven’t seen the movie, the basic premise is that Flint has invented a machine called the FLDSMDFR, which allows food to rain down from the sky. Of course, there’s a slight malfunction as the FLDSMDFR and the food itself start to go haywire. This is where the game kicks in. "Flesh-Eating" gummi bears, giant roasted chickens, and various other foods are coming to life and terrorizing the residents of the town. Your job, as Flint, is to fight your way across town to the final showdown, using some of Flint’s other handy inventions.
The game consists of all the basic platforming elements. As you progress throughout levels, you come across puzzles to solve, platforms to jump and enemies to vanquish. In the beginning, you’re simply given one device, and a basic goal. In later levels, you’re given up to three devices to help you solve more in-depth puzzles. Initially the start of the game is a bit of a cakewalk, but what I appreciate most about the game is the gradual jump in difficulty. While the game is still relatively easy overall, the balance here is spot on. At first, it may seem that the game is a push-over, but after playing through to roughly the third act, the game starts to get a little tougher, and before you know it, you’re dodging giant meatballs whilst trying to fend off enemies and move an important platform piece. For older gamers familiar with all the tricks of the trade, the challenge in the game may still be too tame overall, but considering the target market, the difficulty is pretty spot on.
Control-wise, the game plays exactly as it should. Considering just how poor movie tie-ins usually control, I found the gameplay control to be surprisingly tight. There’s very little in the way of frustration. The layout for switching weapons is clean, the jumps land where they’re supposed to, and attacks are quick and effective. The only complaint I can lobby here is that there’s no camera-control in the game. It’s not a huge concern, as the camera gives you a fair vantage point of all areas that you need to be in, but it would be nice to have when searching levels for certain objects.
Which leads me to the big problem I had with the game: the objectives. The problem here is that the objectives are a bit skewed when it comes to order of importance. Throughout each level, you’re given a goal, whether it be to clean up a baseball field, rescue children or the like. However, this is more of a secondary goal, as the main objective, at least if you want to get the proper ending to the game, is to destroy the 30 foodpods found in each level.
Why is that a problem? Well, the focus on destroying all the foodpods takes attention away from rescuing people. The most interesting puzzles all come from finding the foodpods, not saving anyone. Sure, you’re given constant reminders by other characters that they need to be saved, but being that you can run from point A to point B within a few minutes, the pods are the only things diverting you from your supposed primary task. Don’t get me wrong, this is a minor complaint that does nothing to the detriment of the game, it’s just that the rescue missions feel sort of empty with all the rewards going to the destroying of the pods.
Graphics & Sound
The game sports a very clean look. There’s little flash added here, but the characters, and environments are all very smooth look very similar to their on-screen movie counterparts. Flint and the surrounding enemies are really the only characters that you’ll see moving constantly throughout levels, but the animation is clean and looks as though some thought went into making the characters more believable.
The levels here are fantastically designed. In some, you’ll have a panicked crowd of people running back and forth throughout the background, giant bits of food falling from the sky or rolling through the streets, and various other nice touches that give you the feel that you’re participating in the movie.
The games audio, unfortunately suffers from a couple of problems. Every time Flint switches between or uses his inventions, he’ll say the items name or some lame quip that’s not out of place for the character, but it repeats so often it becomes a bit of an annoyance. The game also doesn’t use anyone from the actual movie in the cast. To be fair, some of the cast do manage to pull off a reasonable impression of the characters in the movie, but it’d be nice to hear the actual cast reprise their roles here.
The music gets a special point for one reason: the 8-bit theme heard throughout the narrative levels, and during the closing credits. The overall score is great, but it’s this particular piece of music that really brought a smile to my face.
The game will clock most players around 6 - 8 hours, depending on skill level, obviously. What’s nice about the levels is that they’re short, which means there’s not much tedium about them. You can literally pop in for a level, explore and finish the rescue mission in 15 minutes tops. The unfortunate part about it is that once you finish a level, there’s little to no reason to go back to it, unless you’re a CWACOM super fan.
There is a co-op mode, which is a nice inclusion for parents who want to give their kids a hand, but overall isn’t a selling point for the game. It would have been nice to see some co-op only puzzles introduced to give players a different kind of experience, but as it stands, you’re given the same tools, same moves as your partner. Again, a nice option, but a missed opportunity.
Ubisoft have done almost everything right with Cloudy. It’s not a game that re-invents the genre by any means, but it’s an enjoyable romp that never overstays its welcome.
+ Difficulty is well balanced.
+ Characters resemble onscreen personas.
+ Levels are well designed.
+ Controls and animations are smooth as silk.
+ Levels never become tedious...
- Destroying foodpods is fun, but shouldn’t be a primary objective.
- Co-op is nice, but lack of co-op enabled puzzles makes it feel unnecessary.
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Release Date : 2009/09/15
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft Shanghai
Category : Platformer
ESRB : E
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