Movie-based games have a bad reputation, but with good reason: they almost always stink. The Chronicles of Riddick is among the few exceptions, but from out of nowhere this fall Ubisoft has delivered the most surprising, unassuming second exception to this Rule of Suckage: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. OK, so the movie itself isn’t Gone With the Wind, and in fact neither is the game. But if you step back and judge it as a children’s game (which is what it really is) and evaluate its merit as a vehicle for delivering movie interaction, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a rare gem: a movie-based game that’s actually quite good.
Players assume the role of the movie’s main character as they work their way through about two dozen levels trying to clean up a world that’s flooded not by rain, but by mana from heaven. That’s right, it’s actually raining food. As a result, every level is strewn with such “evils” as gummy bears, broccoli, chili and popsicles. Each level’s objective basically amounts to clearing a specific number of a consumables; for example, chopping-up a dozen monster broccoli florets to clear the way for hikers going up a mountain. The individual levels are incredibly linear, and there’s no option to control the camera, but that’s amazingly never a problem even when two players are going at it Gauntlet coop-style.
The weapons with which players dispatch consumables vary from food dehydrators to choppers to vacuum-like suckers, each of which can be upgraded multiple times after earning the required number of points. These upgrades are handy in later levels, where enemies are stronger, but they also encourage replayability of earlier levels, which always remain available to try and find more hidden items. This open-ended structure isn’t just for going back, though; players can also play any the five levels within a “chapter” in any order they wish. The order in which they’re played has literally no effect on the outcome, but the pseudo-freedom is a nice touch for the five to eight year-olds for whom Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is designed.
Will adults enjoy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs? Well, parents can blow each level in about seven minutes, so the challenge won’t be there. But watching the kids laugh out loud as they work through waves of cheeseburgers and hack gummy bears is a blast, and it’s obvious the kids enjoy the experience too. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs won’t likely win any Oscars, and its videogame counterpart isn’t likely to top any Game of the Year lists either. Not if compared to adult-minded games, that is. But for kid-focused entertainment and the knowledge that a movie-based game is actually well executed, it’s hard to top these meatballs.
- Score: 8
— Jonas Allen