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PlayStation 3 Review: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

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This platform action game adapts the popular movie of the same name as players help scientist Flint Lockwood. The basic storyline surrounds Flint’s exploits throughout the Swallow Falls town as he solves problems created from his flavorful invention. Players are off and running after a base lab orientation. As play progresses, players can access levels and upgrades from the lab. The story and the general gameplay are mostly linear. It’s hard to get lost with limited movement within the environments while the trial-and-error maneuvering leaves a sour taste at times.

The game follows the film very well, so predictably, movie knowledge enhances the gameplay, For example, as Flint encounters gummy bears he wishes his companion monkey Steve could take care of the problem. This dialogue prompts a second player to join in (only on this version, Wii and Xbox 360) and creates some excitement as a reference to the mid air movie sequence where Steve fights off the bears. Spaghetti tornadoes and other chaotic action sequences serve up other extended scenarios, which were only briefly presented in the movie.

A second player can join in any time as Steve, who can use everything that Flint can, but must keep up because Steve’s player view centers on Flint. Most environments have a contained area where players problem solve their way through the level. Developers also incorporate other actions including some food cleaning using a large vacuum vehicle, which actually has some smooth controls.

Minor characters have no introductions but players can usually pick up the situation and context easily. Players won’t be confused when they see a girl on the lower screen making text comments. That’s Sam Sparks who has Flint’s similar passion for science, meteorology in particular. Since the developers have focused on action more than story, the environments, format and controls become important factors.

The colorful graphics and environments do not have much depth, but provide appeal and keep players away from any navigation issue with clear, defined images. Developers incorporate the same retro 8-bit film themes into the game menus and text bars, which can provide some reading challenges for young gamers though the text frequency is fairly low. Summary still screens with text at the bottom appear after conquering different sections instead of video cut scenes. Players get unlimited continues and plenty of PlayStation 3 trophy rewards, blueprint puzzle pieces and other hidden items, which creates a pleasant experience and sizable replay value.

Any good scientist thrust out of the lab and into the field needs some gadgets. These useful items include a giant fork, heat gun, a giant mechanical boxing glove, a portable vacuum, and the “Chopper-er” for slicing food. At the base lab, upgradable gadget/weapon choices dictate level access, which creates some variety. Players can hold two weapons in some levels, but are mainly limited to one.

A comprehensive level using all the weapons would have been great and could have automatically switched weapons throughout the level. Linear functions work well in these choices because players always have the correct gadget for the correct level.

A few clipping and object interaction issues spoil this dish at times, but can usually be remedied with a little intuitive strategy. For example, if the fork does not interact well with target items, then aim for the item center. The simple control scheme can easily keep most players on track. Use the L1 and R1 button to cycle gadgets and L2 or R2 to use them. Movement is handled with the left stick and jump with the X button.

Younger audiences get more from the 20 plus levels while experienced gamers can complete them much quicker. Smoother, detailed graphics, video cut scenes and expanded voice talent dialogue using stars from the movie are easily recognizable improvement points.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for comic mischief and mild cartoon violence. This game can also be found on Nintendo DS, PC, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360.


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