A simplistic, dull 2D platformer thrown together by Virtual Toys and Sony that sadly fails to do anything exciting with the licence or genre and completely lacks in content to boot.
Story & World-building
The game assumes you already have a decent knowledge of the Muppets characters and their universe, as there’s absolutely no explanation of any of this in game. In fact the licence seems somewhat wasted here – there’s very little effort made to integrate any traditional Muppets humour into anything, which is a real shame given the source material.
The premise for the story is that the Muppets are shooting various movies and you’re tasked with taking control of whichever character that movie is based around (for example, Animal is shooting a wild-west movie called ‘The Good, the Bad and the Animal’) and ensuring the director gets the perfect shots. While this could make for some interesting mechanics, it’s rarely used outside of a short introduction pitching the film and the director yelling “cut!” when you fail a level. Indeed, you’re never really asked to perform any specific shots for the movie – instead everything plays out like a normal 2D platformer.
Aside from this, the stories for the levels aren’t even anything interesting. They’re pretty much the most generic scenarios you can think of – there’s a pirate level; a wild west level; a sci-fi level etc. and you’re never given anything more than the most basic of information about what’s going on in that particular film. While it can be amusing to see Muppets characters you recognise playing roles in these different situations, it’s not enough to keep you entertained. Although I accept that this is a children’s game, there has to be some level of enjoyment to keep you engaged that’s sorely lacking here.
Presentation & Sound
Graphically, the game employs a very basic ‘2.5D’ style of having 3D characters interacting with 2D layers. The models aren’t the worst I’ve seen – they display various jumping, attack and running animations which provide a decent cartoon-esque feel to the game, but as with everything else, it’s all very basic and really doesn’t do anything to ‘wow’ you.
Environments fare slightly better – there’s nothing mindblowing in there, but there’s a decent amount happening in the background so that things don’t feel completely barren and the changes in movie setting do provide some variety to the zones you’ll be running through. As with the models the environments still retain a very ‘basic 3D’ feel, but thanks to a vibrant colour palette I would say they’re the best thing about the presentation.
Sadly, sound is another low point for the title, as there is absolutely no voice acting in the game aside from the narrator at the beginning of the chapters and the ‘director’ of the movie yelling instructions at you when you fail a level. This is particularly disappointing as the Muppets have such a range of whacky yet recognisable voices, meaning you’ll really notice their absence.
The soundtrack doesn’t fare any better, since there’s barely anything to note. The title screen has some cheerful music, and there will be little jingles during the opening scene of each level, but otherwise there’s no background music at all which is a real shame, as I find platformers can often be elevated by having appropriate themes in each area.
Gameplay & Content
So gameplay is a chance to redeem the title, but this is just another place where the things are completely lacking. At its core, Muppets is a 2D platformer with multiple layers, meaning you’ll occasionally be required to jump between foreground and background to progress in a level (think LittleBigPlanet). All characters have a jump button as well as an attack button, and you’ll use these to dispatch the various enemies you come across in a simplistic manner.
The platforming is serviceable if a little dull, but annoyingly a lot of the melee attacks have terrible range – I cannot count the amount of times I got hit trying to attack an enemy with Kermit whose fish-smack seems to only land a few centimetres in front of him. This can lead to some frustrating deaths as you feel you’re doing everything right, only to be punished by the game’s poorly designed mechanics.
As with many platformers, a lot of your time will be spent exploring to find secrets – this is actually an area I can’t really fault Muppet Movie Adventures on. Each level does feel like a fairly big sandbox-esque zone, and back-tracking is encouraged towards the end to ensure new areas are found (you’ll pick up new abilities with each level beaten, which will lead to certain previously inaccessible paths becoming accessible). There’s a decent range of collectibles – stars, film reels and movie tickets, each one unlocking something different, and there’s an undeniable attraction of trying to hunt every last one down.
Aside from exploring, collecting and beating enemies, each level features an end-of-stage boss or other encounter. These range from terrible to somewhat fun, although they do a good job of mixing up the action by having you complete various other tasks (for example, Animal engages in a spaghetti-western shootout with meatballs, which was pretty entertaining).
Speaking of mixing things up, Virtual Toys attempt to inject variety by having various mini-games often using the touch screen. These vary from winding down a bridge to connect-the-dots puzzles – none of them felt like they enhanced the gameplay in any way and more than anything got in the way (I have to imagine they were shoe-horned in just because the game is played on a touch-screen device).
Content is yet another disappointment – as there are only 5 levels available here. While each one is fairly length (around 30 minutes or longer) and replaying each one is encouraged to unlock further content, the whole thing remains a brief affair. Unlockables like concept art are a nice touch, but they really did nothing to bring me back to the game once I’d beaten the final boss.
And just a quick word about performance – personally, I found the game played fine for the most part (I suspect this is due to the fact that very little is happening on screen at once), but there are some major loading screens before and after levels, which can really dampen the experience.
A complete missed opportunity to do something interesting with a fun licence, Muppets Movie Adventures lacks in nearly all areas. There’s fleeting fun to be had here, but overall this remains a very disappointing package.