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Xbox 360 Review: Where The Wild Things Are

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Where The Wild Things Are is a fairly straightforward movie tie-in game. Containing some basic art influences from the film, as well as some general story themes, you control Max as he explores the island of the Wild Things, completing tasks and solving adventures, in an attempt to earn their trust and become king, as well as to save their world which is rapidly being destroyed.

The game is a fairly straightforward action-RPG (a la Baldur's Gate or the Marvel Alliance franchises – although don't expect that same level of quality), with a lot of hacking and slashing, and some puzzle elements thrown in. The story line follows Max as he initially lands on the Wild Things island, begins to explore around, and eventually begins missions with the beasts themselves. The action is geared towards a younger audience, as the main tension is really just hitting flying bugs and blobs of tar and muck. So its kid-friendly in terms of violence and skill level, but the mood of the story is dark. Much like the film, the game has a dark pallor, and the plot of the planet dying makes it kind of a depressing journey. On the upside, you don't "die" in the game, so at least your kids won't have to bear the trauma of repeatedly killing young Max. He just needs to "refresh" every now and then…

The gameplay is divided into two sections. The main section consists of the levels that you go through, solving mini-adventures and progressing through the story. And the ancillary section is the Wild Things village, where you can regroup in between main levels, unlock extra points and health, and just overall take a breather. The main section has very clearly defined routes and there's not a lot of free-world exploring. You have set objectives and it more or less forces you to stay on course. It's not a bad thing, but this is just to say that this isn't a completely open world with unlimited play options. The village section allows more or less free roaming, and you can browse the entire area with unlimited time or health dents, although the village itself isn't overly big.

The levels work in a progressive manner, where you start with very basic obstacles that ease you into the controls and mechanics of the game, and eventually add elements and levels of complexity. To a point, at least. There are really only a few basic moves/attacks/strategies to master, and once you've worked through those, the rest of the game consists of variations on that theme. In a way, that's not any different from most games, but here the levels can take on a monotonous feel after a while. Yes, the story line changes the "goal" of each level, but you're really just going through the exact same motions over and over. For younger audiences this might be less of an issue, as they may be approaching the game out of interest in the movie, story and characters, but for more experienced gamers there will be little variety to be found here.

The graphics of the game are fairly decent. They aren't overly impressive — and in some instances seem fairly cookie cutter for a movie tie-in — but neither do they present any problems. The main technical frustrations arise out of odd controller response, as well as frequent frame rate lag. Regarding controller response, it is mostly fine, but there are several spots (the action of swinging from tree to tree comes immediately to mind) where it's often difficult to get a consistent response to a movement. Fortunately, with unlimited lives you can quickly figure out what the game is looking for in particular spots, and adjust accordingly. The frame rate issue didn't seem to come up much during critical gameplay, but happened frequently enough to make the game seem unpolished. But again, both items are more minor annoyance than anything to get too worked up about. Sound is adequate, although there is not much variety to the sound effects, and it becomes stale after a while.

Even though the game can be a bit repetitive in its tasks, don't expect an overly long adventure. Depending on the level that you select (from Easy, Normal, and Hard), you could complete it in 6+ hours. As for replay, you can gain additional Xbox Live points by completing the game at different difficulty levels or exploring all the nooks and crannies to collect all the hidden items for even more points. The game overall starts fun and enjoyable, as a casual action game, but about halfway through it wears out its welcome through repetition. It would make a fun rental for younger audiences or fans of the action-RPG genre, but doesn't really contain adequate depth or replay value for a purchase. Unless of course you're an obsessive Wild Things fan, in which case feel free to seize the opportunity to make young Max roar and dance around.

About David R Perry