I am a big fan of the sort of puzzle games that LucasArts used to do and which Telltale does so well today. I grew up playing Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit the Road, and so many games of the puzzle-based ilk. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised in my playing of Disney’s latest title, Tangled, that it seems to share a lot in common with those games. It is certainly a version of that genre made specifically for younger players, but it feels exceedingly similar to things like Tales of Monkey Island.
Ostensibly, Tangled takes you through a version of the tale told in the film, with players controlling both Flynn Ryder and Rapunzel. I say “ostensibly” because the game is a little weak with the story – I am not sure that those who haven’t seen the movie will really be able to place what is going on in many of the levels with the larger story. Plus, each of said levels really has very little story to them, the bulk of the narrative is told in cutscenes.
Instead of story, what you get are puzzles that have to be solved. Go to the Snuggly Duckling (a den of thieves visited by Rapnuzel and Flynn) in the game and you’ll find things like a substitute bartender who wants the regular guy back on duty, making your first job there to wake the real bartender up. As you keep playing through the Snuggly Duckling level you’ll be tasked with accomplishing different feats in order to be allowed to use the hidden escape route to avoid the guards. All the other levels play out in similar fashion.
It is well conceived, but perhaps not brilliantly executed. Each puzzle is terribly simplistic, there is even a pointer on doors you need to go through in order to get closer to your immediate objective. The game also presents “challenges,” which ask you to do things like break barrels or to make folks dance. You’re given goals for each challenge, but not meeting a single goal in the challenge will still result in your being allowed to proceed.
The game also allows you to revisit areas to find more hidden items, replay challenges so that you can try to complete them successfully, and even paint a mural hidden away in Rapunzel’s tower home. It is the tower that actually serves as the base for the game and the place that you will start the game from every time. The game autosaves, but only does so between levels – so if you start a level you need to finish it or you’ll just be doing it again from the beginning next time.
Taking a step back, Flynn Ryder is something of a thief with a heart of gold, Rapunzel (in this update to the traditional tale) is being held in the tower by the woman who kidnapped her and is pretending to be her mother. In brief, Flynn meets Rapunzel and they go off on an adventure, thwarting evil, finding happiness, and restoring Rapunzel to the parents she didn’t know she was missing. As very little of that is present in the game though it’s not a huge concern. Instead, you go from place to place, level to level, solving puzzles and drawing ever closer to Rapnuzel getting her wish to see the floating lights her real parents (not that she knows it’s her parents) set off every year on her birthday (just pay attention to the opening cutscene, you’ll get some of it).
The important point of that last paragraph is that Flynn and Rapunzel go out and do things together in the movie and consequently you’ll have to have them do things together in the game as well. Both characters have special abilities (Rapunzel can use her hair to swing, Flynn can use his knife to break things), and you will switch between the two characters on the fly to use their abilities to get through the levels. The game can also be played in two-player local co-op mode (up to four folks can play at a time, but the other two simply break objects, hurt guards, etc., they’re not full-fledged characters) with one person controlling each character. Nicely, co-op mode can be activated on the fly.
That is good and bad news – you can help your young ones (who are really the ones who will be most intrigued by the title) along in the game by playing with them, which makes it something of a quality time activity. Unfortunately, it also means that you can play with them and adults will find the title none too amusing. I don’t want to give short shrift to the joy of seeing one’s child thrilled by what they’re doing (my daughter absolutely loves the game), but moments of it are certainly tedious for adults, and the inordinate number of load screens only enhances that feeling.
With semi-annoying voiceover provided by Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore, strictly average graphics, and easy gameplay, Tangled still manages to squarely hit its mark with the pre-pre-teen videogame crowd. It is a retelling and expansion of some of the moments in the film and any child who liked the movie will almost certainly enjoy the game. As for adults, you will be able to smile at your child’s amusement, which isn’t all that bad either.
Tangled is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence. This game can also be found on Nintendo DS.