With video games taking over the entertainment world as the number one money maker, it's still no surprise that movie and game companies hook up. Animated movies are no exception; DreamWorks Animation and Activision have gotten together to design one of the best and most fun kids video games I've played in a long time - Over the Hedge, based on the upcoming film.
When I opened up the box, put the game in my Playstation 2, I could already tell it was going to be a fun game. And that's because of the opening animation from the design company, Edge of Reality; it's one of the simplest and at the same time fun openings out there. Just to give you a little description, there's a cute orange figure that gets crushed by letters falling down to create the name of the company.
Ok, enough about that; the beginning of the game starts off with some good upbeat music, all the main characters from the Over the Hedge film appear on the screen, including RJ (Bruce Willis) and Verne (Garry Shandling). The options for the games are also pretty good as well - extras include concept art, short movies, more music selections, and stills of the original comic strip. You're able to gain more and more extras by unlocking them during game play.
I noticed something right off the bat about this game; the loading of different levels and screens is amazingly fast; when I'm playing a video game, that's one of the most important things and this game had that! Each level shows the objectives, sub objectives, and keys to complete and continue on in the game.
The first level starts in Gladys' (Allison Janney) back yard; start out with RJ and Hammy (Steve Carell) knocking down trash cans, whacking hanging lights, and water fountains all with your trusty golf club (in the film, RJ carries around a golf bag - hence, the golf club as your choice weapon). But, there's a catch - there's a farting dog and a lazar light security system there to stop you; what's really cool about this feature is aiming the golf balls to hit the upper lights.
I have to admit, starting off the game without reading the instructions makes this a bit hard to play; so, I broke down and read the instructions. But the game is still really fun to play, even when you have no idea what you're supposed to do next. Once I figured out how to correctly use my controller, I really got into the game and it truly is a blast.
As you travel through the different back yards in the neighborhood, you're joined by more of the animals from Over the Hedge. So what makes this game so great? The special mini games you get to play; one is a 'bumper cars' type game on a golf course in golf carts.
What more and more game companies are doing is putting captions on the screen while the characters are talking; and I know this is now a standard feature, but you have to figure this helps children learn words. And this game is not only fun for kids, but for adults as well.
With animated films, concepts and story lines are thought of sometimes 10 years prior to the release. Since the comic strip has been around that long, it was imperative that game designers got together with the creators of the Over the Hedge comic strip, T. Lewis and Michael Fry. Recently I sat down with the pair who told me, "Activision involved us in the creation; they invited us down to Austin, [Texas] to the studio where they were creating the game (Edge of Reality). We conferred with them; they hired us to write some story lines, some rewards the characters pick up along the way." Michael says, "I got to do some of the dialogue writing for some of the characters which is so interesting because you've got the four main characters (RJ, Verne, Hammy, and Stella, voiced by Wanda Sykes) in the film) and 300 minds in an Excel document."
The directors of the Over the Hedge film, Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick, were very heavily involved in the creation of this game; they even get their names in the credits at the end of the game. "We were involved early on," says Tim; "we would sit down and brain storm with these guys. We would tell them some story lines early on that fell off the cutting room floor; we showed them all the scenes that got cut." Karey added, "They would bring us the game every two months and see how the movie had changed. They worked very closely with us, and they got all the information from our computers on the database."
Karey and Tim even got jealous of the game designers in regards to the animation. Tim told me, "It was mildly depressing after working on the movie for three years, they came to us after a couple months and said, 'We just have a really rough thing,' and they have Verne in real time running and jumping; it took us years to do that, so it was mildly depressing. But it's a great game!"
And I'll vouch for that; this game is great! There are over 135 objectives to complete, so you'll be playing for hours and days. Even though the movie actors don't voice the characters, they're so close you won't know the difference (especially Wanda Sykes as Stella).
Over the Hedge is definitely a game I would recommend to any gaming fan out there; Activision, Edge of Reality, and DreamWorks Animation has a hit on their hands! The game is in stores now, rated E-10+ (everyone, ages 10 and up), available on Playstation 2, X-Box, Nintendo GameCube, Game Boy, and Nintendo DS, as well as on your PC.
Over the Hedge, the movie, hits theaters May 19th; it's rated PG.