The estimated opening weekend box office take north of $60 million for Pixar’s ninth animated feature-length film, Wall-E, will send scores of young satisfied filmgoers in search of THQ’s videogame adaptation. Once found, they will experience a predictable platformer offering little innovation to the “games based on movies” genre, but staying faithful to the film’s tone and structure.
In Wall-E, missions follow the film’s plot closely with additional levels dreamed up at developer Heavy Iron Studios built in to extend gameplay. Humans have abandoned Earth in search of greener pastures leaving Wall-E, a “Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class robot,” behind to compact trash into cubes. Wall-E’s curiosity is essentially wasted on the rotting planet until the humans send back Eve, an “Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator” robot, to search for plants. The two robots strike a human-like bond until Eve is summoned back to her ship with evidence of living greenery. Wall-E, naturally, tails his new love into space determined to rescue her.
Players assume the role of either Wall-E, Eve or both alternatively within the same mission through levels beginning on Earth and moving to a giant spaceship. Wall-E’s levels generally require maneuvering the boxy robot on treads around moving or stationary obstacles and solving puzzles by building trash piles into useful cubes that can be tossed or precisely placed where needed. He is able to fold into a box when sliding down slopes, can trigger switches to rotate platforms, can defeat gravity by attaching himself to magnetized surfaces and wield a familiar weapon when presented the opportunity.
Driving the little guy is unexpectedly fun, like a cross between a tank and an agile remote-controlled car with quickness. But there isn’t enough variety or anything revolutionary for him to do. Each progression to a new area presents more puzzles and more enemies to dispose of by either tossing well-aimed trash cubes or firing a weapon.
Eve’s control dynamic opens up the world above Wall-E for exploration with her ability to fly. She can also lift Wall-E up to high spots he’d otherwise have zero hope of reaching on his own. When long tunnels require passage, Eve can zoom through them at high speed to reach the other end.
Missions starring Eve are generally more expansive than Wall-E’s simply because she can cover more ground in a shorter period of time. Her missions also seem easier as it’s hard to take a lot of damage when you can simply fly away, especially from a twitchy camera that plagues Wall-E in tight corners. Even when confined during the tunnel sprints, it’s harder to intentionally kill Eve before reaching the end than make it cleanly through.
Scattered throughout each level are circular red “E” symbols that can be collected to unlock movie-related goodies like concept art. Most of these are in plain site and directly in the path of playing through the decidedly linear levels, leaving little to no reason to return to the single-player story or co-op missions after a first pass. Replay value is limited to a multi-player mode open for up to four players to race for items and blast each other to bits. Partaking is good simplistic fun and a reason to drive Wall-E like a madman, but the omission of online support means you’ll need a friend in the same room to enjoy.
Pixar films are some of the most beautifully shot pieces of cinema thanks to the creative geniuses at the studio. The cut-scenes in Wall-E the game are modeled after this animation and do a remarkable job of feeling like a part of Wall-E’s theatrical universe. In-game visuals that run up to 1080p with minimal clipping are also well conceived to carry the tone of the film, and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio has been mixed to take advantage of the rear speakers, especially during the cut-scenes where the inquisitive score comes into play.
For a game that only exists to tie-into a film, Wall-E provides all the necessary ingredients to satiate filmgoers looking to interact with an extension of the film. What you see is what you get, which is a run-of-the-mill platformer populated by imaginative characters you’ve already grown to love.
– Dan Bradley