Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2005 Video Games
Ages: 10 - 12 yrs.
Publisher: Activision, Inc.
Price: $39.99
Gaming System: XBox
If your youngster adored DreamWorks' hit animated flick Madagascar, this videogame has all of the fun and adventure and will prove just as compelling as a game.

Its mechanics are the tried-but-true third-person videogaming formula seen before in so many titles, from Mario to Spyro, with characters maneuvering through rich and exotic landscapes in search of power-up objects, pals, and the way to the next level. But it works anew because these Madagascar creatures are so personable and funny. They even converse with each other!

You start out as Marty the Zebra who is trying to escape the zoo--and therein is the adventure that stays true to the big-screen script throughout. With each main character, you have to upgrade your animal instincts and skills--like getting Marty to improve his jump, back kick and crawling abilities. Along the way, as you advance through the 11 chapters and countless challenges, such as "Manhattan Street Chase" to "Penguin Mutiny," you play as other popular characters--Alex the Lion (who needs to upgrade his claws and roars), Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe. They all face off with new enemies, confront new obstacles, and interact with a wide range of creatures.

And the bonus is there are extra chapters and 25 mini-games to play if you succeed--including Shuffleboard in various imaginary locations, Tiki Mini-Golf where you take on tropical natives, and Lemur Rave where you test your rhythm beat. The whole game is about navigating, finding, collecting, fighting, and problem solving.

Graphics are a huge plus since they derive directly from the film. Environments are detailed and cool looking. Characters are fantastic. Game play is well suited to the 10-ish crowd and won't frustrate them (this earns the new "E +10" game rating). And while it won't exercise their brain muscles much, it will work their reflexes and make them laugh out-loud. And that isn't bad these days.

Don Oldenburg   ©2005 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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