With every animated movie release nowadays, it's pretty inevitable that a game based on said movie will not be too far behind it. There are some hits and some misses, as always (alright, so there are lots of misses), but generally speaking, the titles based on the Pixar productions don't turn out too badly. While the primary audience is definitely the younger generation, Pixar games, much like the movies, have a habit of walking the fine line of being fun for kids while also being enjoyable for adults. Not too long ago, we were treated to a day at Pixar Animation Studios where we got to play the game based on their upcoming film, WALL-E. We spent some time with both the Wii and Xbox 360 versions of the game, and can see that once again an effort has been made to strike a balance between young and old; although there are some areas that could use a bit of fine-tuning before the game is released later this year.
The storyline of the game will co-incide with that of the movie, and without spoiling the fun for anybody, WALL-E is your main character, a trash-compacting robot. Set way in the future, WALL-E is the last robot on earth, in fact, and he is quite content living alone and doing what he does best: clean up the place. But that all changes when EVE, a robot from a probe, comes down to do a routine check on Earth, and a love story forms between the two of them. Of course, it's not just a romance, as they embark on an adventure together and try to enjoy their life as a robot throughout all the madness that takes place. The game is designed to fill the gaps of the film, so to speak, with a narrative that takes place in-between the scenes that you'll see on screen. Throughout the course of the game, you'll get to play as both WALL-E and EVE, as well as take part in some levels which will require you to use both of them at the same time, co-operatively, which means that you'll never be stuck in the same role for very long in an effort to keep the game fresh and feeling different.
The contrast isn't just in the characters you'll play as isn't just cosmetic; they each have their distinct styles of gameplay. WALL-E for example is entirely ground based and his levels all revolve around solving puzzles of different types, with the ability to throw the trash he compacts at targets and switches before traversing difficult terrain including rotating platforms and navigating through buildings full of security robots that you'll need to avoid. He can also compact himself into a cube form so that you can quickly roll down hills if need be, and you will also be able to move objects this way by throwing yourself into them. EVE is almost the direct opposite, as she has the ability to fly, and thus her missions include races and more action-orientated things like fast-paced shoot-outs with other robots. In the co-operative levels, you'll essentially control WALL-E and EVE will follow your lead, but the cool advantage here is that if you jump, EVE will carry you in the air for a short period of time allowing for some interesting platforming levels.
The difference in the different platforms stops at the gameplay; the story will effectively be the same across all platforms and feature similar content. Of course, the Wii is always the exception when it comes to gameplay (along with the Nintendo DS of course), and we found the controls using the Wii remote and nunchuk quite responsive for the most part. Steering WALL-E around and aiming with the Wii remote when shooting makes sense and feels natural, although we found that the flying around with EVE proved to be quite difficult. Using a combination of both the remote and nunchuk to simply pick the direction you're flying in was fiddly, and we often found ourselves trapped in walls, unable to do anything but shake the remote around endlessly with nothing left to do. Of course, there is still time to iron out these bugs with many months left between now and release, but it was a bit of a concern. There are also multiplayer modes, including one we got to try out which was an on-the-rails shooter, with up to four Wii remotes able to be used on screen shooting robots and other objects. While not being overly impressive, it will certainly extend the longevity of the game for those with friends who are into the franchise.
At this stage, WALL-E is a really mixed bag. While the puzzle elements with our favourite trash-compacting robot were simple and innovative, we found the flying sections we played with EVE particularly tiresome, with controls that we couldn't get a grasp on, which is odd considering the target audience of the game will surely be the younger crowd. Still, as said above, the issues will hopefully be fixed by the time it's released. It sure looks shiny, with even the Wii version being of a good visual quality, and the concept of a good game is certainly here; if they could just fix up the way EVE flies, we'll feel much better.