SHREK the THiRD (henceforth to be known as the less obnoxious Shrek the Third) will join the pantheon of licensed games that failed to do much more than poorly promote the original property. Dropping the four-player brawler style adopted for Shrek 2, Shrek the Third takes a more traditional action-platformer approach with the movieís main characters interacting and being switched out to solve puzzles, navigate obstacles, and knock around bosses. The action is often hampered by a poor camera, ill conceived level design, and shoddy controls. For those who canít get enough fairy tale and pop culture humor, sadly, the seriesí trademark humor is in too poor of form here to make this adventure worthwhile.
The king of Far Far Away has fallen ill and calls on Shrek to take the crown, all told in one of the great 2D cutscenes played out by marionettes. Eschewing the responsibilities of governance, Shrek sets off to find Fionaís cousin Arthur, a young lad who is off getting his education, to put on the throne. On the way hijinks ensue that require the player to randomly take control of Shrek, Fiona, Puss in Boots, Donkey, Sleeping Beauty, and Arthur.
The name of the game is combat. There are a few puzzles, but they are extremely easy and more of a means of stalling than anything else. To pummel your way through the endless jocks, soldiers, and witches, each character has a string of simple attacks along with a toss and a throw. The attacks are basic and the combat system limited. Knocked-out foes drop fairy dust, a magical dust that fills a power meter that allows for a stronger attack to be used. Shrek and Fiona get an extra, more special power, that can be unleashed when all three bars of the power the meter are full: itís a power that allows them to slow down time so they can bop enemies about.
The only respite from the painfully repetitive combat is brief relief from the two finishers, tossing and throwing. Unfortunately, those too are also limited, and they are also flawed. After pummeling an enemy for a bit, a strong attack can send them sailing into the air to be caught for further abuse or a throw can be pulled off. If you toss them in the air and grab them before the hit the ground - or pick up any object, really - you will note nothing ever touches Shrekís hands; they simply hover over them. The throws are less bugged moves that render the player neigh invincible and involve longer animations, such as Shrek scaring someone so much they freak out or slapping them around. During these, the sound cuts out. Iím not sure if the ESRB rates harsher when a backhand to the face can be heard or what, or if itís just one of the numerous technical problem the game suffers from.
The platforming portions can be a real trial, thanks to a fixed camera that often chooses terrible angles. Jumps are often made without a proper sense of depth, resulting in either death or repeating small portions of a level over and over. The angle can also make it difficult to attack enemies, but that is at least manageable by flailing like a madman. In one level, as Puss in Boots, I jumped on a bed to reach a coin, but both unlocked a side goal and also overshot the bed, landing behind it. Jumping on the bed was one of the gameís many additional in-level side quests, but being subsequently stuck behind the bed and having to restart my game was not. There was one moment when, upon entering a castle, the camera went below the ground level and angled up, resulting in everything being scene from underneath Ė an unflattering an unintentional angle.
The graphics could have also used some additional TLC. Certain moves will drop the game to a handful of frames per second, creating bits that look similar to old claymation movies. There was another time when my character disappeared for a moment. The game looks great in still shots, but the stiff animation and numerous flaws make it anything but. The audio wouldnít be particularly noteworthy if it wasnít for the spotty voice-overs - Thatís Eddie Murphy! Oh, wait, no. Wow Ö that really isnít Eddie Murphy. Wait! It is! Oh wow, no. Nevermind. Ė that will impress you for the right and wrong reasons.
One of the few good points in the game is the aforementioned in-level side quests. Aside from being the bulk of the achievements, the side quests are tallied in with various actions during the game, both resulting in cold coins that are added to the coins collected by the characters touching them. These coins can be used in an outside shop to purchase new costumes for Shrek, with some affecting attributes like health and strength, as well as strange developer commentary on some of the levels. There are also mini games, many of which arenít that great, but the Frogger knock-off and the castle siege (using a ballista or catapult to hit targets on castle towers) found within the game are entertaining for a little while. Aside from a few bright spots, though, Shrek the Third is a dud.
If Shrek the Third is a title aimed at the younger crowd, then the game is way too difficult for them. If Shrek the Third is meant for the older crown, then the game isnít nearly compelling enough. If Shrek the Third is meant for all ages, then the young and old will be equally disappointment: bored and aggravated from fighting the controls, the camera, and the lackluster levels design in a game that just isnít worth it.