Aside from being tie-ins to three of the seemingly endless supply of bigscreen computer-animated family films hitting the bigscreen, “The Ant Bully,” “Barnyard” and “Monster House” couldn’t be more different — both in gameplay and quality. “The Ant Bully” shines as a fun outing for younger kids that includes (gasp!) some actual learning. “Barnyard” serves up colorful action in an all-too-familiar genre. And the camera angles and shoddy controls make “Monster House” an absolute failure.
First the good: “The Ant Bully” may not have met expectations at the box office, but has simple controls and easy-to-solve puzzles tailor-made for young fans of the film. As Lucas tries to shed his reputation as “the destroyer” of the ant colony — while also trying to turn back into a human — he learns all about ant colonies. The variety of the gameplay — hack and slash here, puzzle-solving there — helps disguise the fact that this title teaches while it entertains.
The same is not true of “Barnyard.” While it is wildly entertaining, it not only doesn’t teach, it might make kids more stupid. At the onset, gamers are asked to choose whether they want to play the game as a girl cow or a boy cow.
Either way, the character gets udders, no doubt because they’re such an important part of the gameplay (squirting milk from said udders is one of the skills needed to advance the story). Biological fallacy aside, these cows also are capable of Tony Hawk-like tricks on a bike.
“Monster House,” meanwhile, is a time-wasting mess of a tie-in. Three kids explore the haunted house down the street, armed only with water blasters to ward off the creepy-crawlers they encounter. Too scary for the target group and too boring for anyone old enough to not get nightmares after playing it, the awfully clunky controls, frustrating, repetitive puzzles and deplorable camera angles are best described by one of the characters: “Please let this be a nightmare,” Chowder says during gameplay. Trust us, it is.