Guest review by: Lisa Harrison
Dear reader, please allow me a moment of misty-eyed recollection. Let me remember the times I spent as a young child – blonde-haired, blue-eyed, grinning broadly, full of life and hope for a bright future, untainted by the rigours of corporate society as we know it today – watching my favorite programmes on television on a weekend evening. Such happy memories – Dukes of Hazzard, Grandstand with Des Lynam, and my favorite programme of all – The Muppet Show. Those brightly colored bundles of slapstick puerile wit were my heroes. Miss Piggy was my idol. It is fair to say that I strove to be like Miss Piggy – I wanted to be a cross-species whore just like her. OK, perhaps not. The point is that The Muppet Show was one of the highlights of my routine during my childhood. My memories of watching this programme are mingled with memories of sunny days, roundabouts at the park and the happy tunes played by ice-cream vans.
Imagine my horror, then, to be confronted with this appalling insult to the world of gaming only to find, to my abject despair, that it bore the name ”The Muppets”. Film and television tie-in games are seldom any good, but this is a particularly bad one. Created quite blatantly to milk the fond recollections of older gamers, it is a wonder that the employees of TDK or Jim Henson can look at themselves in their mirrors each morning without either cackling wildly, breaking into a sweat, or both. This insulting piece of ”software” (and I use that term in its loosest possible sense here – ”doorstop” might be more appropriate) takes all those aforementioned memories, screws them up into a ball, spits on them, then discards them cruelly in a pit of oblivion before throwing a lit match upon them and leaving them to burn eternally.
Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. I’m holding back, being kind out of respect for these memories I keep mentioning. I am desperate to cleanse myself of this most heinous of cash-ins, and denial is my friend. Hysteria has rid my very soul of any remaining energy, and I am left in a pool of my own tears to find a way out – to deny that this ever happened. This review is my salvation. I have the opportunity to prevent similar disillusionment and woe amongst the ranks of my fellow gamers, and hopefully now I can convince you not to defile the memories of your childhood by playing this disgusting waste of space vomited out of the bile duct of some corporate hag somewhere in order to take your cash by any means deemed necessary in the boardroom.
The format of the game takes the same format as The Muppet Show itself. You have to successfully complete a series of mini-games in the style of the sketches featured in the old show. The first one involves steering Kermit around a pool in order to collect musical notes and avoid Miss Piggy and the other Muppets who float across the stage in various vessels. All the mini-games are interspersed with scenes of Waldorf and Statler commenting on your progress. Other games include helping Bunsen and Beakie to avoid letting bad ingredients being inadvertently added to their experiment, and bashing rats on the head.
The games quickly become repetitive. They are all too easy – progressing is swift and unchallenging to the point of being meaningless. There is no satisfaction to getting through this game. Worst of all, there is no entertainment factor either. The sketches are dry and unappealing – there is no comedy element here. Even recognising all the characters and being reminded of Beakie failed to raise a single smile. The format simply does not translate well to game play. Ironically, the first game is the hardest. From there on it gets amazingly basic and the more you continue the more you feel like you’re wasting your time. Then, before you know it, the game is finished and you’re left feeling shallow and frustrated. There are enough mini-game fests out there that are good enough to rely on game play to sell, rather than wheeling out characters whom the audience will pay for without even considering the merits of the game – this is the danger of tie-ins and this is the problem here.
The appearance of the game is unoriginal and boring, but realistically comparable to the appearance of the television programme. Text is very easy to read (which is unnecessary anyway given that the instructions are always the same for every game) and there are no real glitches with the graphics, although when Kermit raises his arms at the start of each game, there’s a dangerous hint at potential detachment. All the characters look the same as they did on the show. Kermit isn’t the only one afflicted by polygonitis however – Waldorf himself has a case of the polys around his mouth, and the movement of characters in play is sometimes stuttered and harsh.
Sound is a major irritant. The music is uniformly atrocious, aggressively cheerful and somewhat whiny. Characters suffer from bad voiceovers, with not one of them sounding the way they sound in every other format The Muppets make an appearance on. Sound effects are unconvincing and extremely loud. Yes, that’s ”unconvincing” for a cartoon, even. Imagine the badness, and pray you never encounter it. You can’t even play with the sound off – warnings are incorporated into the games on occasion to help you through play, and it’s nigh on impossible to play the games without these – I tried it out. Hardly convenient if you’re playing your GBA in the office, although that would be morally ambiguous…
Access to completed mini-games is awarded by means of a password which can be entered at the start screen through the options menu, although whether you’d actually want to replay mini-games is another matter entirely (”Oh, I’m at a loose end for 90 seconds. I know, I’ll sit and bash the A button repeatedly for a while whilst listening to Beakie say ‘Minimiminimmi’ and pray that no-one looks at me funny”). The overall replay value is non-existent. After living through this travesty once, I can’t see why anyone would want to go through the experience again. Truth be told, I finished this game solely because I intended to review it. If I hadn’t planned to write this, I wouldn’t have made it past the first ten minutes. As it is, I’m returning this tomorrow.
This has been a disillusioned twenty-something whining about the state of gaming today whilst mentally harking back to some imagined glory-day redundantly, but blessedly silently. Thank you for your time.