Featuring the voice talent of Stiller, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian The Video Game is an adventure/puzzle game that allows kids to relive the movie as well as explore several of the museums that make up the Smithsonian Institution and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
The game retells the movie's story about the displacement of some of the favorite exhibits from the museum in New York to storage at the Federal Archives in Washington D.C. and their subsequent rescue by Ben Stiller's character Larry. What is fun about the movie and the video game is that the exhibits in these museums come alive at night.
The game's story unfolds through the accomplishment of over 120 quests, spread over different levels, which are located at different museums including the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the Federal Archives, the Smithsonian Castle, the National Mall, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and an art museum. In addition to going on quests, kids will collect objects scattered throughout the museums such as coins, postcards, pilot wings, and other paraphernalia. They can also stop to listen to audio tours about objects found in these museums. But perhaps the coolest thing is that they get to interact with famous people in history including Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, Teddy Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Al Capone, and others as they run around in these famous museums.
The quests vary greatly from simply playing fetch with Rex the dinosaur to piloting Amelia Earhart's plane to jumping between platforms that are hanging in the National Air and Space Museum. Part of the game's story involves finding pieces of a special magical tablet which has been broken into ingots. When you do find these ingots, they imbue Larry's flashlight with magical powers which allow him to do things like jump into paintings to interact with the inhabitants, repair broken objects, tame and befriend wild animals, as well as summon lightning bolts. Larry's keychain also doubles as a grappling hook so that he is able to navigate to high, out-of-reach places.
While the platforming puzzle play (jumping from one platform to another) is standard video game fare, the game really shines by instilling Larry's flashlight with magical powers. For example, when trying to evade some of Ivan the Terrible's henchmen, Larry will find himself trapped in an art museum. By shining the flashlight on a painting located behind a henchman, he can make the painting come alive; and in this case, a shark in the painting reaches out and gobbles up the henchman (who dissolves into dust with no blood shown, since this game is rated E 10+).
The game also has an excellent hint system so, while some of the puzzles might seem hard, players can always solve them eventually. And with so many locations, the game cleverly provides you a map of each, with your goals indicated by glowing spots on the map.
While the game controls are occasionally wonky (you might shine Larry's flashlight on something and nothing happens at first; but if you try from a different angle, it responds), and some of the gameplay is a little repetitive, this is a movie-based game that is very good. It starts off being rather easy, but ratchets up in difficulty over time, without ever overwhelming the player.
Meeting a wide-range of historic figures who come alive, interacting with charismatic Larry, and solving creative puzzles using magical powers make this game a pleasure to explore. And if kids stop to read all the factoids presented and listen to the museum's audio tours, they might pick up a few interesting historical facts. If your kids enjoyed the movie, they will appreciate this charming adventure game.
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