Don’t deny it, guys. We’ve all read reviews of licensed games that start something like this:
“Games based off movies have a reputation for being only slightly more fun than getting punched in the face and kneed in the gut at the same time. So wasn’t I surprised when I got X licensed game to review, and it turned out to actually be a decent way to spend an afternoon?”
Tangled for the Nintendo DS will be getting no such praise from me.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m well aware I'm the opposite of the intended audience for this game. A 21-year-old guy who loves shooters, horror games, and challenging platformers is not exactly the eight-year-old girl who is the target market for a game about a princess trying to find her true heritage. That said, there have been plenty of games that treat this market with the kind of respect it deserves, and Tangled is not one of them.
There are three things a game appealing to younger audience needs to accomplish: it must be simple and fun, it must have detailed animation, and it needs to be free from technical problems.
Tangled is definitely simple. But unlike games like Super Mario Bros, where it is easy to learn the basics but there is a degree of complexity behind it, Tangled simply presents a very basic concept and never strives to expand on it. Essentially, this game falls into what we call the ‘adventure’ genre. You guide Princess Rapunzel around various environments, interacting with people and objects to advance the story. The game’s failures here are two-fold. First, any sense of accomplishment is completely denied to you. A typical adventure game has puzzles that you need to figure out yourself, giving you a sense of achievement when you can finally advance. Tangled, on the other hand, simply tells you to ‘run outside and pick up a log’, or ‘find this animal’. I understand this game is intended for a younger audience, but even at that age I preferred the games that had me figure out what to do instead of laying it out for me on a silver platter.
Tangled’s other failure with regard to the gameplay lies in the minigames you must complete in order to advance in certain sections. At least they try to give you some challenge here, but these get very monotonous. There are less than ten of these minigames, and the developer recycles them endlessly throughout the four-or-so-hour adventure. Man, if only the Rapunzel from the actual movie realized she could solve all of her problems by doing things like continuously brushing leaves out of her hair, drawing lines to make friends with animals (yeah, seriously), picking up objects and placing them in the right spot, putting together puzzles, and playing games of Snake by grabbing dots while avoiding her own ever-growing hair. Not only does it get very old, very fast, but at no point do these games ever approach a level one would call challenging. The first time I tried that ‘making friends with animals’ game, I scored 44 out of 5. That is, I needed to trace five lines successfully, and I got to forty-four before missing one. Even if the player does find a spot they can’t get past, they can simply spend a few Sun Drops (which are dotted liberally around each environment) to bypass it. Talk about rewarding gameplay!
The shallow gameplay might at least be palatable if there was some type of reward to go along with it. Some nicely-detailed animation might have at least helped the player believe they were participating in the movie. Well, Rapunzel herself has some decent detail, with her flowing locks swaying behind her as she moves and the way she plays with her hands when standing still. Unfortunately, I’m still going to have to go buy a movie ticket, because the game really explains very little and in very dull fashion. When Flynn climbs into Rapunzel’s tower, you’d think there’d be a little suspense, right? Sorry, all you get is some text saying something like “A stranger climbed through the window,” and then he appears standing next to the princess. Most oth
er characters don’t even have animations—they just stand there in one pose, even when you start talking to them.
While we’re on the subject of talking to other characters, let’s discuss the most atrocious failure in Tangled—the loading times. Yes, you read that right. Every time there is a change on the screen, something needs to load. Moving to a new area? Loading screen. Starting up a minigame? Loading screen. Talking to another character? Loading screens before and after. How does a cartridge-based game, which really shouldn’t have any load times, have them every time anything ever happens? Had I not been playing this for review, I’d have shut my DS off after twenty minutes for this grievous waste of time—I can’t imagine the little girls who just want to
help Rapunzel find her family actually caring enough to stare at a little spinning circle every step of the way.
Tangled is the opposite of what a kid-friendly game should be. Instead of pandering to them with mind-numbing gameplay, it should encourage them to develop critical thinking skills and reflexes in order to solve problems. Also, games based on properties like this need to be visually engaging. Static characters with no animation, simple lines of text telling you what is supposedly occurring right in front of you, and load times at every opportunity are simply unacceptable for any kind of game, let alone one based off an animated movie aimed at small childre
n. If you have a Wii system and are looking to buy your kids a Tangled-based video game, I highly recommend picking up the version designed for that system, as it meets all the requirements outlined above and does not treat your child like a moron who will buy anything with the Disney brand. Quite literally, the most I’ve taken away after my time with this DS game is a greater desire to see the movie to figure out what the heck just happened.
Wait... maybe that was Disney’s plan all along...