The videogame version of “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” will leave players wishing those wisecracking animals had stayed back on the island. Storyless, arduous and tedious, it’s essentially a mediocre minigame collection that offers too little context for older fans and too many repetitive challenges for kids. Still, as far as tot-targeted movie tie-ins go, “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” is far from the worst thing on the market and will likely see decent sales on the strength of the film’s boffo $63.5 million bow this weekend.
In the second “Madagascar” pic, the sassy zoo creatures of the original film crash-land in Africa on their way home to New York. In the game, that’s more a starting point than an actual narrative. There’s little sense of the source’s plot, save for a short intro scene that summarily reintroduces the characters before plunking them down amid a series of disjointed minigames.
These minigames are marginally fun, but as the loose premise — vidgame narrator King Julius, an eccentric lemur, wants to snap impressive photos for a travel brochure to attract tourists — rapidly falls apart, it starts to feel more like a work camp than play.
“I like money,” Julius quips repeatedly and drolly, while the player runs yet another coin-collecting obstacle course.
This arduous progression of character-specific minigames comprises the “story” mode, in which even young players suited to simplistic experiences are likely to struggle for motivation without either a reward or a sense of purpose. And unfortunately, it’s wholly linear; there’s no advancing to new areas or scenes without completing the minigames in the order they’re presented.
Due to the surprisingly difficult enemy artificial intelligence, this means players will have to repeat some minigames over and over. A soccer game is especially tough to win, for example, due to a zealous goalie. Stuck players have no choice but to try the same failed activity over and over, while the sense that there’s any fun to be had drifts further and further away.
A preferable alternative to the story mode is the arcade section. Few of the games from the story mode are playable here, but the ones that are available are much more appealing as stand-alones. One highlight is “Jungle Chess,” in which the pieces are movie characters with different strategic abilities on a jungle board.
Overall, the game looks like a sufficient reproduction of the “Madagascar” universe. Its most appealing elements, in fact, are the pleasingly congruent sound effects and art style, as well as the dead-on sound-alikes for film stars Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and Sacha Baron Cohen.