A Movie-Based Game
As in the movie, this adventure game has a circus theme. The animal friends are performing with a traveling circus in hopes of making their way back to their beloved city of New York. When the circus arrives at a new city, the hilarious Penguins (scene stealers extraordinaire) send the four lead Madagascar characters on missions to supposedly help the circus.
The missions take the form of quests for objects or for the performance of tasks set inside of vast cities. A few involve dashing or racing around. Kids control the characters as they platform-jump to navigate upper and lower levels of buildings. Most of the time, animal control officers are on the prowl; so moving with stealth or being inconspicuous by wearing a disguise is the name of the game.
In each mission, kids get two characters assigned to them; and they can rotate between the two at will. You can even have a friend drop in and play as the character that you aren't currently controlling. The game developers purposely created things within each mission that only one of the two characters can do; so kids will need to reason out which character to control as they face each challenge. For example, Gloria the Hippo can swim, which can be very important when navigating under the fountains in Rome.
The characters' unique skills are also tied into the circus theme. Kids will discover that Marty the Zebra is good at being shot out of a cannon. Amazingly, Marty can make old cannons on display in Rome work; and by shooting himself out of them, he can reach places to which no other character can travel. Alex the Lion is good at balancing on tiny places which allows him to jump from street lamp to street lamp. And tightropes are abundant in these cities; so kids will have to have a steady hand as they guide characters across great urban expanses between buildings.
In addition to going on missions in the story mode, kids can also explore a handful of circus-based mini-games. In these, kids can fly on a trapeze, walk on a tight-rope, fly out of a cannon, jump thorough burning hoops, toss snacks to circus goers, and take tickets. The burning hoops is particularly fun since it is all about timing your jumps while a lemur, King Julien, eggs you on.
The Good and the Bad
Each mission gives players plenty to do, from collecting city objectives (such as putting up posters or collecting wood pieces), to gathering character collectibles (each character has something to collect), to fulfilling the mission objective of finding or doing something for the Penguins. However, these city environments are big and are complex, so it is easy to get lost and find yourself just wandering for minutes on end without accomplishing any of the mission objectives. The game provides a map, but it just isn't all that helpful.
Also annoying is the frequency with which camera angles need to be adjusted. You can walk into corners and not be able to see where you are until you adjust the camera angle. And when the characters' try to jump up on things, they frequently miss and seem to be floating around.
Since this is an E-rated game meant for young kids, the game cleverly doesn't let you fail very often. For example, if your character falls off a tightrope, you are brought back to the start of the rope to try again. Likewise, if Marty the Zebra jumps into water, he is immediately brought back to where he was before he jumped and is shown shaking himself off and muttering something about "zebras can't swim."
The Bottom Line
If your kids love the Madagascar gang, they will enjoy this game. While the main story mode has some flaws, it's still enjoyable to jump, swing, kick, smash, and roar your way through the missions. The ability to play with a friend in a split screen mode adds to the fun. And the mini-games are a hoot. While not great, this Madagascar romp is worth exploring.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.