The latest trend going through the game industry sees developers playing the nostalgia card. Rather than merely cashing in on the latest Hollywood blockbusters, gamers have seen their favorite movies from year’s past given the digital treatment.
The possibilities seem endless — swim the ocean in search of unaware swimmers in Jaws, carry out mob rule as the newest member of The Corleone Family in The Godfather Game, feed ham to Tina in Napoleon Dynamite.
Wait — What?
Yes, there is a Napoleon Dynamite game and yes, it’s weird. The game supposedly takes place after the events of the movie, but is essentially a rehash of the source material with a bit of extra thrown in to expand gameplay. You play Napoleon as he wanders through town interacting with characters from the movie through a series of minigames that range from fun and quirky to head-scathingly frustrating and everything in between.
You’ve already played Napoleon Dynamite: The Game even if you’ve never even touched the cartridge. Most of the mini-games (especially those at the beginning of the game) are mere rehashes of other games. Most of them can also be found on lesser platforms like cell-phones and online flash properties.
Many of the games feel like they aren’t very well planned out — especially those which require you to control multiple characters at the same time, essentially leaving your fate in the game’s seemingly absent artificial intelligence. The AI isn’t good — take for example the mini-game "Uncle Rico’s Football Toss." Your only goal, as the name suggests, is to throw the football further than your Uncle Rico. On a few of my attempts, the ball landed nearly 400 yards away — pretty decent right? Yeah, until the computer controlled Uncle Rico managed to bounce the ball off of every bundle of firecrackers and trampoline (which send the ball even farther). Lame.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing fun here. In fact, some of the mini-games are quite addictive and fun. Try not to crack a smile as you control Napoleon Dynamite as he rides a unicorn through space. After each game, you are scored and given a rating, like most games part of the fun is trying to beat the records your — or anyone else on the system has set.
The developers must be commended on their bold and refreshing visual style choice. Abandoning the realism from the movie, the folks over at 7 Studios chose to take more of a scrapbook style, making the characters look like cutouts with big heads tacked onto the backgrounds complete with pushpins. This novel style evokes the same style seen in the posters and oddly enough, it better conveys the quirkiness in the film.
Napoleon Dynamite isn’t meant to be a game-of-the-year candidate. It’s merely meant to be a fun and quirky distraction, which it succeeds at. As a licensed game, Napoleon Dynamite is a cut above the rest, but as a game itself, it’s nothing special.
Learning Curve: [rating:2/5]