Finding Nemo for the PS2 is the predictable license of the film from Disney. A typical kid´s title released to make the most of the film while it is still fresh in the little ones minds. Too often the perception that a game is for kids and the need to release that game to coincide with cinema calendars has led to sub-standard titles which don´t offer kids any value for their money. While Finding Nemo has some redeeming features it does unfortunately fit quite comfortably into this category.
The game was developed by Traveller´s Tales and published by license loving THQ. Traveller´s Tales are certainly adept at the cartoon art style and this game is instantly recognisable if you have seen the film. The characters and settings are all familiar and the game follows the story of the film in a linear fashion with excerpts of the movie serving as cut-scenes between missions.
The game looks great and constantly reminds you of the movie as you play through a 3D ocean fraught with danger as Nemo, his father Marlin and even the dim friend Dory at times. The colourful backdrops and nicely animated characters and hazards make this a pretty sight to behold. However a nice veneer is not enough to make this action/puzzler an attractive prospect.
There is a basic manual provided with the game which gives you all the instruction you need to get started. You´ll also want a memory card to save your progress. The game loads up straight into the main menu and you really only have the choice of a new game or watching the trailer.
The controls are nice and simple, with only two buttons and the analog stick or d-pad employed. The game-play area is 3D but a linear route is generally enforced and the fact that the camera angle changes as the action progresses can sometimes make things confusing. The first couple of missions introduce you gently to the basic game concepts such as the ability to score or speed up by going through air bubble rings, or by collecting brightly coloured shells. They also included a nice system for armour which involves picking up some Krill, by running into them you can get them to follow you and they act as a shield.
There are a number of linear levels, by which I mean you must complete each one in turn before you can progress. They all include special starfish to find which unlock bonus levels. Once completed a level is available to you to play again and so kids can try several times to find all the starfish. The bonus levels are not the greatest, they are obviously intended to give some incentive to replay the game but they really aren´t very imaginative, they include a pairs clone, a simon says clone and a slide puzzle clone.
The difficulty level is fixed and I think it may be too difficult for the target age group of very young children. Older kids are unlikely to be interested in this unless they loved the movie. Teens and even pre-teens would get little enjoyment out of this. I have a sneaky suspicion that one of the reasons for the frustrating difficulty level is the fact that this game is very short, an adept gamer could complete it in a few short hours but a young kid might struggle for days. This is a lazy way of increasing the staying power of the game and it is likely few kids will bother to complete it.
The sound in the game is very good with some of the original voice-talent featuring here as well. The ambient sound helps to set the scene of an ocean teeming with marine life and the music is suitably uplifting or dramatic in the appropriate places. It does retain that Disney feeling which you would expect from a license of one of their films.
Most of the levels are timed and the difficulty ramps up quite quickly. Although the enemies are nicely done, they include electric eels, hermit crabs and puffer fish; they are too frequent and very repetitive. In fact the whole game feels very repetitive with many of the levels forming a tiny circuit. There is none of the feeling of exploration in a huge ocean which I had hoped for and comparing this title to a much older one in the form of Echo the Dolphin I´d find it very hard to recommend this. It is also necessary to replay the levels several times if you want to unlock all the extras and it becomes boring fast.
Finding Nemo will satisfy fans of the film because it works hard to remain faithful to the source material, however there isn´t much to recommend the game-play and as a PS2 title for younger kids you could do better. I think there are too many licenses and inevitably they often concentrate on repeating the experience of the film to the detriment of the actual game. A very pretty action/puzzler with nice sound, but ultimately frustrating and repetitive - only recommended for young hardcore fans of the movie.