Saturday, December 3, 2011

Shrek on Xbox: A Twisted Fairy Tale Indeed

It pretty much goes without saying that the majority of movie-licensed games are very poor quality, with the exception of great games like EA's Lord of the Rings series, and the recent Batman: Arkham Asylum/City games.  Back in 2001 a particularly painful movie-licensed game was released alongside the original Xbox: Shrek.  Why am I picking on a kids game you might ask?  Well the reason is I played it back in the day and I found it to be an odd game, so I feel it belongs in our blog of strangeness.

Judging by this cut and paste artwork, we can tell the game will be high-quality.

Begin Rant

Ok there's a few things I want to complain about before I get into some of the weird things about this game.  First of all, this game probably tricked many unsuspecting people into purchasing it, leading them to believe it would follow the hilarious plot of the first Shrek movie.  This is not the case at all; the game shuns the plot of the film, opting to go with the “Merlin is evil, go stop him” route.  Because of this we don't get any of the characters from the film besides Shrek and a very brief appearance of the Magic Mirror (supposedly Merlin has kidnapped Fiona, but we never see her, unless she's in the ending credits.  I never bothered trying to beat the final boss so I don't know for sure).  Words cannot express my disappointment at the absence of Donkey.  Nothing says “I'm cheap and I don't give a damn” like not licensing everyone's favorite characters, and on top of that not providing a voice actor for Shrek.  How can you make a Shrek game without at least hiring a Mike Myers sound-alike?

End Rant

Now that we got through the rant, let's talk a little about this strange (and bad, very bad) game.

The Environment Art Style

Whereas the environments in the first Shrek film were clearly inspired by medieval times, the environments you encounter in the game look like they were rejected from the Nightmare Before Christmas.

Structures have crazy proportions, and everything is bump mapped so that Bill Gates could flip the bird to Sony by showing off his more powerful hardware.  It's kind of interesting and kind of cringe-worthy as you wander around these areas.  However you'll spend most of your time lost due to horrible level design.  The art style in this game should have made the environments more enjoyable, but as a whole it somehow feels soul-less.  Maybe it's because the areas are so sparsely populated?  Maybe it's the crap soundtrack?  Either way, when playing this game you get that weird feeling you only experience when playing budget games.

The Characters

One of the things that made the Shrek films so enjoyable were the comedic re-creations of classic fairy tale characters (I can't help but laugh whenever the cross-dressing evil stepsister has a line of dialog).  Fortunately we get a little of this in the Xbox game, with such classics as Humpty-Dumpty and Little Bo Peep.  However the remaining characters/enemies are mostly uninspired, such as witches, skeletons, bats, court jesters, and many more things from Blandville.  There are a few really weird character creations though, such as Gumby-like kids with slingshots:

Shrek takes out his frustrations on half-assed character design.
the candy monstrosity Frankendrop (who happens to also be a boxer), and the oddly funny disco-dancing cow that appears in a few of the levels.  Something that I also found a little odd are the human characters.  In the films they were portrayed as exaggerated but semi-realistic people, but the game tends to show them as dwarf-like with bland faces.  Did the developers care at all about being true to the source material?

This ends my quick look at Shrek for the original Xbox.  This is really one of those games that you have to play for yourself to experience how bad it is, along with how awkward the environments are.  I feel like I should end this post with a Smashmouth song like the movie, but the game devs didn't bother to license their music either.


  1. I had a Shrek fighting game for the Game Boy Color. It was not pretty.

  2. I can only imagine how painful that was, movie-licensed games seem to be infinitely worse on handheld consoles.

  3. There are not very many good games that are based off of movies. I still have not found a good Shrek game to date.

  4. I would be surprised if there did exist a good Shrek game, developers are too lazy when it comes to movie games.

  5. Hello Dear,
    This gem was the reason the Xbox survived.The unadulterated stunning power that is shrek is excessively for even this console so it solidifies.The missions are captivating and I've replayed 420 times.Shrek is love. Shrek is life.
    Best wishes,
    Sylvia Powell.