Thursday, December 10, 2009

Young Max Moves the Rumpus to the Land of Wii.(The Arts/Cultural Desk)(VIDEO GAME REVIEW WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE).

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It is often said of good family films that they work on multiple levels: they entertain both adults and children. Creating a tale of multigenerational appeal usually entails combining the exaggerated, less subtle visual vernacular of youngsters with writing laden with meaning for their parents.

That could have been the case with the new Where the Wild Things Are game. But it isn't. The Wild Things game works, serviceably, on only one level: that of the bored elementary or middle school student killing a few hours before dinner.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Everyone, even a child, is entitled to a little mindless downtime. I played the game's Wii adaptation (versions are also available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo DS machines) and found it relentlessly unobjectionable. It won't rot anyone's brain.

But it is also thoroughly unmemorable and anything but provocative. The new ''Wild Things'' film from Spike Jonze is meant to be an auteur-driven artistic statement. The new Wild Things game, published by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, is the somewhat desultory requisite marketing tie-in.

And yet I think grandparents will love this game -- not to play it but to buy it for their grandchildren as a safe bet when they have no idea what the kid would really like and are ignorant of anything more substantial.

''I know little Johnny has a Wii,'' they will say as they dive into Wal-Mart. ''Oh look, a Wild Things game. Looks fine.''

If those same grandparents then make a comparably uninteresting choice and take little Johnny to dinner at a national chain restaurant he will be treated to a dinner as commodified as his new game.

Once again, not that there's anything wrong with that. I don't think anyone was expecting the Wild Things game to provide a truly ambitious, fully realized top-shelf experience. I found only a few bugs that forced me to restart a level, which isn't bad for a game of this caliber. Only a couple of times near the end of the game did some of the tunnels and ledges that Max must traverse become annoying and obtuse.

And I'm sure my index finger will recover soon from its mild soreness at pulling the trigger button on the Wii controller repetitively. The combat in Wild Things could charitably be described as minimalist in that all you ever have to do, or get to do, is pull the same trigger over and over.

That said, Wild Things is not a sloppy or slipshod game. Some children will enjoy watching the village of the Wild Things grow as Max explores the game's levels and collects various trinkets. The violence in the game involves Max's smashing giant insects and spiders made of black goo with his scepter. The other half of the gameplay involves jumping from place to place without falling into chasms or water.

The Wild Things themselves look and move evocatively enough, but there is just nothing in the writing, the story, the gameplay or the world design that lends any depth to their characters or the environment around them. Given the amount of attention and money devoted to the ''Wild Things'' film, that is more than a little disappointing.


PHOTO: Where the Wild Things Are: A scene from this game from Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, which follows the adventures of young Max.(PHOTOGRAPH BY WARNER BROTHERS INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT)

Source Citation
Schiesel, Seth. "Young Max Moves the Rumpus to the Land of Wii." New York Times 24 Oct. 2009: C9(L). Academic OneFile. Web. 10 Dec. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:CJ210419145

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