Can a videogame be too good? It may seem like a weird question, particularly in the typically dismal world of games licensed from kids’ movies. But “Meet the Robinsons” is challenging, engaging, sharply designed and a terrible fit for its license. Anyone young enough to want a “Robinsons” spinoff will likely find the game way too tough, while those old enough to appreciate it will be put off by the association with a kid-targeted animated feature.
Most games based on feature toons present easy challenges that let kids play through key scenes from the movie, along with some actual footage from the pic. But Disney, which published the game itself, took an impressively different and possibly wrongheaded direction with “Robinsons.” Game features an entirely different story from the movie, with barely any presence from either the film’s protagonist, orphan inventor Lewis, or its villain, Bowler Hat Guy.
Instead, supporting character Wilbur Robinson gets his own original adventure, in which he attempts to recover his father’s stolen time machine after accidentally altering the future.
To find it, he faces a huge number of “Legend of Zelda”-esque puzzles that will challenge even adult gamers to push the right block, use the right weapons, and fight devious boss battles. Game draws heavily on “Zelda” not only in its challenges, but also in the control mechanism utilized for the Wii version. In addition, there’s a series of fun challenges in which Wilbur rolls through a course inside a plastic ball that will remind gamers of the “morph ball” segments in Nintendo’s “Metroid” games.
Graphics are particularly impressive for a kids’ game. Not only does everything look crisp, but the game accurately captures the specific look and character movements from the film.
While it’s nice to see Disney trying a new story, it’s not a particularly interesting one. Other than a prologue set in ancient Egypt and a brief visit to a 21st century school that touches on a plot point from the movie, the action mostly takes place in generic industrial environs filled with moving platforms and killer robots. Given the time travel theme, Disney missed out on the obvious opportunity to set levels in any number of fun historical settings.
The worst level, though, is undoubtedly one in which Wilbur has to help the owner of a Carvel shop clear a path to help kids get access his ice cream. In the midst of a game about saving the future from a time travel mishap, the blatant product placement makes Paula and Simon’s Coca-Cola cups look subtle.
While it’s far from a masterpiece, Disney-owned developer Avalanche Software made a “Meet the Robinsons” spinoff that stands head and shoulders above most licensed kids’ game. Too bad the right audience won’t get to appreciate it.