With most Macs now coming with LCD screens, it’s important to make sure that they run at their native resolution for optimal image quality. One of the first things that strikes you when you run Shrek 2 is that all the introduction graphics and videos look blocky on anything bigger than a 12-inch screen. The game limits itself to a maximum resolution of 1,024-x-768 pixels, and on our 19-inch test screen it looked mediocre at best. Inside the option list, there were more disappointments. The control configuration can’t be changed, so those of us without a two-button mouse are stuck trying to tap control while using W-A-S-D to move around – something only hand-gymnasts can do with any degree of comfort.
Once you get going, things get a little better.
You start off as Shrek, who jogs around and can jump and punch, much the same as Donkey and Puss in Boots. In fact, every character does pretty much the same thing, only slightly differently: Donkey can run faster than Shrek, and Puss in Boots is the most agile of the lot.
The basic premise is that you, as a character, run around, solve puzzles and defeat enemies – and it’s as simple as it sounds. With almost unlimited health, and the fact that every enemy can be defeated more or less with repetitive punching, the whole game can become repetitive. The clipping is quite interesting, and while it often works without fault, you can sometimes find yourself stuck on top of someone or wedged into a corner. Combat is simple too, and the characters can get stuck performing combo manoeuvres at thin air as enemies move away. The inclusion of different attacks for different characters makes it a bit more varied, though. Annoyingly, you can end up standing directly in front of an enemy without being able to apply fist to face, yet he keeps attacking you. This is not without merits, though: do it right and you can find yourself hitting two or more enemies at once.
Although there’s a fair amount of combat in the game, it is still a 3D platformer – so there’s a large amount of running around, pulling switches and jumping. Each character has its own animationfor activating the different switches, which breaks up the levels nicely. However, a few of the character dynamics aren’t quite right for some characters – have you ever seen a horse strafe? Didn’t think so.
There are lots of opportunities for climbing/jumping, but as any large jumps are done automatically for you, any chance for a bit of skill is lost. That’s not to say that some sections are easy, but it’s not because the game itself gets harder. For instance, climbing up some poles is hard, because the angle you have to jump onto them seems to be random, resulting in a frustrating time spent jumping into a pole, only to fall into air and having to start again.
It’s rewarding, however, to complete sections with well timed jumps and be greeted by the Save Fairy. This is a nice twist on the auto-save routine – instead of having a game saved at a certain
point, you’re greeted by a little fairy (looking like an unshaven Danny DeVito) who will save your game.
However, the game is not without its merits. All the characters have voices, and while they can get repetitive at times, they aren’t bad. Puss in Boots has replaced Donkey as the comic of the sequel, and so there are many opportunities for new puns and quips; there were times when I caught myself laughing out loud. The graphics aren’t terrible, and although they don’t look great on big screens, the sort of gamer with a 20-inch-plus screen probably won’t buy this game.
Shrek II is family-friendly, with cartoon violence and simple puzzles. It’s ideal for kids or for a family sit-down, and this in a way makes up for its simplistic gameplay. The voices are funny, and the controls straightforward. While the levels appeared complex, there was always one clear route, making it easy to work out where to go next. This game could quickly become tedious, but the humour saves it for adults, and as a whole the game is ideally suited for kids or for a family night in.