Your first question in regards to this title is undoubtedly what the silver “Special Edition” means across the top of the box art. The answer? No idea. In fact, it would seem Disney is going out of their way to hide that they’re bilking consumers looking for a fresh DS title for the little ones. PR materials, marketing websites, and product descriptions sell Finding Nemo on what it is: a bunch of mini-games, but nothing new over the edition pushed into stores back in 2006.
Kids love tapping stuff these days, so maybe that’s the draw, along with colorful, super compressed cinematics culled from the feature film. For the most part, the 30-odd touchscreen-driven experiences have one goal: touch this, not that. You’d be surprised how far you can take something of that simplicity and stretch it to kill time.
Finding Nemo doesn’t follow the feature film’s narrative, odd considering videogame translation tradition says otherwise. In fact, the first challenge is pulled from the end of the movie, as bagged fish escape a dentist’s office, pass traffic, and dodge seagulls. The goal? Making it to the end while hoarding pink seashells. The latter amount to currency used to blossom a virtual aquarium and/or reef, stocked with digital life – or at least what the DS can render in limited polygonal shapes.
It probably shouldn’t all hinge on that customizable reef, but it does. There’s more fun poking around and moving plants aimlessly than in most of the stiff, loosely controlled mini-games. To make life worse, you’ll have to complete entire sets of four mini-games per character (ranging from familiar to “They were in the movie?”) to unlock more. If the kids get stuck, they’re stuck. Cue baby’s first videogame temper tantrum, which inevitably turns into an adulthood of endless broken controllers.
The mini-games are not broad or even well thought out. Their links to the movie prove tenuous at best, with players pushing sea urchins out of the way, stabbing tentacles with a stylus, and fishing… with a fish. No, it doesn’t make sense.
Some entries require the lightest amount of interactivity, one being a dull teeth-cleaning on a shark which amounts to swirling the touchscreen and hoping for the best. The only enemy is time and whether or not the touchscreen is moody.
Finding Nemo is harmless for the target audience, but it’s hard to see it being attention-grabbing. Angry Birds offers 10 times the amount of conceptual brevity in one style of play than this re-issue of a 2006 DS game parading around as something new. The kids love Angry Birds, if t-shirt sales are any indication, and Nemo is sort of like a step back to a time when devs were still experimenting with that style of control implementation. We’ve come a long way in six years.