Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-01-09 Nintendo DS Action/Platform E (Everyone) Activision / Amaze Entertainment / Griptonite Games

I wasn't too crazy about the first Madagascar movie, hence I have not bothered watching the second. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa appeared in my mailbox during the holidays though, and I don't like leaving games unreviewed, so here is what I thought of it.

The game follows the adventures of Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, Alex the Lion and Melman the Giraffe, with the characters stranded in Africa, their place in pieces and the trip back to New York postponed. The main goal here is to repair the plane and find enough chimpanzees to help you in the process.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is essentially a platform game "on tracks" with some mini-games in between. You control the several characters one at a time by using the buttons and D-pad, hopping, jumping and fighting your way through a given stage. The movement is limited, since the camera is fixed and it seems more like the stage scrolls by you than you move through it. You have no control over the camera angles either, which makes parts of the game fairly frustrating. For example, there were a few occasions where I had to backtrack to reach a certain platform I had missed, only to find myself trying to jump into the unknown, because I couldn't see it.

The majority of the game has you running around different areas in typical platforming action, fighting off angry tourists and some wild animals at certain points with repetitive button presses as your combat system. Characters do have a special move, but it's nothing to be excited about. Throughout the game, you collect items. Scattered throughout the stages are a few mini-games that give you extra tokens or chimpanzees - and are also the only few times you get to use the stylus. These mini-games are just a dumbed-down Simon Says task, where you must tap the icons in the same order as shown. Not much challenge there.

As for the presentation, the character models animate quite well, but it's a fact that the system can do better as far as the graphics go. Soundwise, the music was decent, albeit repetitive after a while. I was quite pleased with all the voice acting, which is always a plus to have in games aimed at children. Not to mention the characters' voices seem to have been pulled right out of the movie, from what I remember.

There are a couple of bonus levels as well, which do add a little something more, but don't stand out either. One is a pinball game where you use bananas as your flippers, but the physics are downright atrocious. The other is a bit like Lemmings with penguins, where you guide them through the level by using their skills. Unfortunately, there are only four levels to play through.

With the different characters available, Escape 2 Africa would have been better off to let the player swap characters according to the situations, allowing the player to think and adding a bit of strategy to the extremely basic gameplay. Variety in the mini-games would have been a great addition, since the simplistic "tap these blocks" seems to be irrelevant to the story or gameplay, as if someone had decided to throw it in the game just because. As for the collectibles, actually placing some of them in unlikely spots would give players more of a challenge.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa just doesn't stand out enough to be worth the purchase, especially among other better children-oriented games out there for the Nintendo DS. I'd only recommend if your little ones have seen and really enjoyed the movie, and even then, I'm not so sure.

Special thanks to Activision for providing a copy of this title.